Dr Faruq Abubakar
As most schools will be resuming next week, parents are going through thick and thin to raise money to pay for their children’s school fees, pay for ready-made uniforms/cardigans, and buy exercise books, textbooks, writing and other learning materials/apparatus.
This is coming at a time when inflation is taking its toll on people’s income globally. It is public knowledge that the majority of the people educating their kids in private schools are salary earners, among them are university lecturers whom the federal government denied salary since February this year.
It should be noted that, apart from tuition fee charges which the majority of private schools increase year in and year out, some of the private schools do not allow parents to buy any of the learning materials mentioned earlier from other vendors, rather they will force the parents to buy these materials from the schools at exorbitant prices in most cases. Worse still, these sets of schools have made it a tradition to change reference text every year. It has now reached a point when parents are suspecting that there may be connivance between schools and publishers of those books, of course, because both are profiteering from the extortion annually.
Although it is understood that there are certain ‘textbooks’ at kindergarten and early primary school stages, where it is necessary for the pupils to write on some worksheets within the textbook, thus rendering the textbooks disposable. However, senior primary pupils and secondary school students do not need such worksheets within their textbooks. It can be made separately to save cost.
However, publishers nowadays mischievously combine worksheets within pages of textbooks for almost all levels, thus textbooks become disposable therefore parents would have to buy new ones every year. On the part of the schools, even when the textbooks do not have any worksheets within, the schools introduce new textbooks every year.
It is on this premise I call on private schools and publishers to please stop exploiting parents, especially in these trying economic times. Otherwise many parents will buy the books but fail to pay tuition fees. It should be noted that the survival of private schools depends heavily on the purchasing power of parents.
It is unfortunate how every year, private schools roll out new sets of textbooks for all levels, from kindergarten to secondary school levels. That means if for example, one’s children are moving from JSS1,2,3, SS1,2 to 3 respectively, one has to buy for all of them. No one reuses their elder sibling’s used textbooks.
Back in the early 90s up to about a decade ago, some pupils/students used to use even their parents’ books. Recycling was normal. Nowadays, parents are left with cabinets full of recently published but forcefully archived books.
It is therefore pertinent for school proprietors and managers to understand that a lot of parents are paying through the nose to educate their children. They should also understand that curricula are meant to last at least 5 years before any review could be effected that would warrant a change of reference text.
In the same vein, regulatory bodies such as state and federal ministries of education should wake up to their regulatory responsibilities, by ensuring every stakeholder is not shortchanged.
Dr Faruq Abubakar, writes from Bauchi, Nigeria. He can be reached via faruqmabubakar@abdulrazak