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Fee hikes: What is the lot of the girl-child, persons with disabilities?

Across Nigeria, anger and discontent have trailed the recent fee hikes in fuel subsidy, transportation and indeed the education space. For vulnerable groups in society such as girls and persons with disabilities accessing quality education might remain a pipe dream. 
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Fee hike on girl child in NigeriaAcross Nigeria, anger and discontent have trailed the recent fee hikes in federal unity secondary schools and federal universities. Parents, teachers, students, and associations have called for a review describing the hikes as inhumane and insensitive to the plight of citizens. 

For vulnerable groups in society such as women and girls, persons with disabilities, and persons with low income, attaining quality education might remain a pipe dream. 

The news of the purported fee hike has hit 22-year-old University prospect, Gbemi Shotunde (not real name) hard. For one who had missed her chance to start her tertiary education last year, 2023 meant the year for a new beginning and with that mindset, she had been preparing, working hard to help her sick mother raise funds for her education. Now, she says she isn’t sure what step to take as the uncertainties were high.

“Seriously, I am confused. My dad is not serious about my education. It has majorly been me and my mum and she is sick. I was searching for how to get my original SSCE certificate so that I will be able to present when the screening comes. Then, this news came. It is tough, sincerely, in this economy with little or no support. And I really want to go to school,” Gbemi said.

READ ALSO: NANS denounces tuition fee hike, urges alternative sources of revenue

To date, no less than six universities across the country have increased their fees, some of them by as much as 400 per cent. These institutions include the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka; University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), Borno State; Federal University, Dustse, Federal University, Lafia (FULafia), Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, University of Benin (UNIBEN), Edo State; Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi; and Usmanu Danfodiyo University (UDUS), Sokoto. 

In the same vein, the federal government has increased the fees for newly admitted students of federal unity schools to N100,000.  A circular from the Office of the Director of Senior Secondary Education Department of the Federal Ministry of Education with reference number ADF/120/DSSE/I, dated 25th May, 2023, showed details of the breakdown of the fee.

“The latest fees/charge increment will affect virtually all aspects and activities of the school, including tuition and boarding fees, uniform, textbooks, deposit, exercise books, prospectus, caution fee, ID card, stationery, clubs and societies, sports, extra lesson, insurance, et al.

“Please be informed that the ministry has approved only the under-listed fees and charges for all Unity Colleges,” the memo read.

Fee Hike in Unity Schools

Officially, education is free and mandatory for all children in Nigeria, both boys and girls. The federal government in a statement on Wednesday reiterated this. However, many schools continue to charge unofficial fees. According to academic scholar Nkechi Okoli (PhD), enabling access to education in its full and broad sense means free and unlimited, unhindered, unfettered, opportunities at each level of education to obtain knowledge and skills abilities available at that level. But with rising fees across federal, state, and local fees, such access may very well be a pipe dream, particularly for the girl child and other disadvantaged persons.

READ ALSO: ASUU president urges FG to review school fees hike


Implications on the girl child

Investing in the girl child is crucial to ensuring wholesome national development. Sadly, despite increasing advocacy on gender equality and girl child education, recent years have been marked by major setbacks for gender parity. According to the World Economic Forum, progress recorded on women and girls in education and the workforce has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, thus partially opening the gender gaps that had already been closed. 

Fee hike implications on the girl child
Girl child campaign in Uganda

Also, according to sustainable development goal 5 (SDG5), 10 million girls will be at risk of child marriage in the next decade because of the pandemic. Currently, Nigeria scores low in the 2023 Global Gender Gap score, ranking 130th (gender gap) and 137th (in the education attainment index) among 146 countries surveyed. With increasing hikes, the country is expected to experience a further decline in the parity score. While advocacy has improved over the years, the belief that girls’ education is unimportant, persists in Nigeria. Families who have limited resources for school fees would rather invest in the boy child, and keep their daughters at home, working. Whenever resources are put on the consideration table, the girl child is often at the receiving end. 

Speaking on the issue, the Executive Director, Reaching Hands Foundation, a non-profit committed to empowering girls through education, Oluwaseyi Bababusola, said she was worried about the challenges that Nigerian girls may face due to the recent hikes being experienced across the economy. 

Girl child advocate in Nigeria speaks on Fee Hike
Oluwaseyi Bababusola, Executive Director, Reaching Hands Foundation

“First it was fuel hike, which resulted in an increase in transport costs, and living costs. Soon, it will not just be government owned schools that will be increasing the fees, private institutions will be considering such increases. The implications are far-reaching, and we must collectively address them to safeguard the future of girl child education.

“Access to schools becomes a daunting challenge for many, as the increased transport expenses amidst rising school fees could force parents to make agonising choices. Regrettably, this may hinder the dreams and aspirations of countless young girls yearning for an education.

“Nigeria already grapples with disparities in educational opportunities for girls, and this development could exacerbate the situation. In families facing tough financial decisions, the education of daughters might take a backseat to that of sons, perpetuating the cycle of inequality and limiting the potential of our young girls. Girls deserve to be educated at all levels,” Bababusola stated.  

The NGO director called for urgent and collaborative steps to be taken to address the pressing challenges and protect the advancement of girl child education in Nigeria.

“Collaborative efforts are vital to overcoming the obstacles that hinder girls’ education. At the Reaching Hands Foundation, we are open to partnering with like-minded NGOs and community leaders to find innovative solutions. Together, we can leverage our resources, expertise, and networks to make a lasting impact on the lives of Nigerian girls and contribute to the overall development of our great nation,”she added.

Considerations for special kids and persons with disabilities, unavailable

Inclusive Education and Persons Living with Intellectual Disability in Nigeria 698x430 1

The National Policy on Education saddles the federal and state governments with the responsibility of making education inclusive and accessible to children with special needs. The aim of this according to the policy developed in 2013, is to ensure that persons living with disabilities are adequately educated to fully contribute their quota to national development. Sadly, interactions with some persons with disabilities have shown that this is far from reality.  A vast number of persons living with disability are still denied access to basic education, skills, training, and quality inclusive education.

Special education is often capital-intensive when compared with other types of education. Training for staff and internationally recognised certifications don’t come easy. Neither are the fees for specialized schools. This is a massive financial undertaking for many in a country where nearly two-thirds of the population, live on less than $2 a day, talk more of persons living with disabilities who are more likely to experience extreme poverty in Nigeria than those without a disability.

Reacting to the recent fee hikes, the Executive Director of the Centre for Disability Inclusion, Yinka Olaito, complained that persons living with disabilities were hardly given consideration in policy development or decision-making. 

Up till now, we must establish governments of Nigeria at various levels that have never given any serious consideration for persons living with disabilities in policy decision and direction. Government may keep pretending the opposite is the case but the reality is there to speak for itself.

There is a need to remember the majority of persons with disabilities form the poorest of the poor in society because many do not have access to quality education. Those who tried among them paid through their noses knowing that will give them quality lives if acquired.

He urged governments and institutions to consider the implications on persons living with disabilities before implementing new fees structures as this may shut them off from securing quality education.

“The hike in the price of educational fees to me is the last straw that may break the camel’s back. The will to struggle and aspire for getting an education by these few Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) may have been broken by the government. The general hike in my view is not well thought, as it does not give consideration to Persons With Disabilities.

Olaito appealed to the Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led administration and state governments to at least see Persons with disabilities from their own peculiarities.

“To safeguard the interest of PWDs is to announce a fully funded, structured and automatic scholarship for persons with disabilities so as to encourage them to aspire for more,” Olaito added.


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