Private school proprietors in Nigeria have expressed significant concerns regarding the consequences of the recent removal of fuel subsidies by the Federal Government.
They anticipate that this development will compel them to raise school fees.
These concerns were raised by the National President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Yomi Otubela, and other participants during a virtual dialogue organised by the association.
The dialogue focused on “Government Policies and Resultant Effects on Private School Administration: A Case Study on the Removal of Fuel Subsidy.”
Participants highlighted that even prior to the removal of fuel subsidies, the operational costs of private schools in the country were already substantial and increasingly burdensome. They emphasized that with the removal of fuel subsidies and the subsequent rise in the costs of goods and services, including transportation, generator usage, and other educational needs, private schools may have no choice but to increase tuition fees in order to sustain their operations.
While acknowledging that the government’s decision to remove the subsidy is not inherently flawed, participants stressed the importance of implementing palliative measures to support the social-service sector, particularly private schools.
“As critical stakeholders in the education ecosystem, private schools play a vital role in providing quality education for a significant number of children in the country,” the participants said.
Participants urged the government to consider their concerns during ongoing negotiations with labour unions and other stakeholders, in order to alleviate their burdens while also addressing the needs of other sectors.
Participants also emphasized that “Parents are already under financial strain due to various obligations and would be reluctant to bear the additional burden of increased tuition fees.”
They appealed to the government to provide special consideration and support to private schools during this critical period, given their crucial contribution to human capital and national development.
To minimize the impact of the subsidy removal, participants proposed several palliative measures. These include providing school buses through lease agreements, conducting regular teacher training programs, granting educational grants to teachers and administrators, establishing educational banks to offer soft loans to teachers, school owners, and parents, as well as providing tax holidays for teachers and schools. While these measures may not entirely resolve the challenges faced by private schools, they would significantly contribute to their sustainability and growth without necessitating tuition increases.
Participants acknowledged the need for increased prudence and improved financial management practices within private schools.
They also emphasised the importance of exploring alternative energy sources and fostering partnerships among private schools to pool resources and expertise.
During the forum, Bismarck Rewane, a financial and economic expert, affirmed that the costs of operating private schools would inevitably rise following the removal of subsidies, as is the case for all businesses. He acknowledged that school owners might need to increase tuition fees as a means of mitigating the impact of the subsidy removal on their operations.
However, he cautioned that such fee increases could have consequences on schools’ revenue and the country’s educational system.
“Some parents may struggle to afford the higher fees, potentially leading to student withdrawals and reluctance to return,” he said.
Rewane advised private school proprietors to seek educational palliatives from the government, such as scholarships for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly at the basic education level.
He also suggested that schools should receive upfront payment to meet their needs and advocated for teacher training initiatives.
He, therefore, encouraged private schools to embrace digital learning as a complementary approach to traditional classroom instruction.
Rewane emphasised that education is a catalyst for societal development and requires adequate investment from all stakeholders, including the government. He commended NAPPS for organizing the forum, highlighting its importance in equipping private school proprietors with the knowledge and tools needed to thrive in the face of challenges.