Parents reject request for third term fees
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown has not been friendly on the pockets of many parents. It is therefore not surprising that many are against schools billing them for third term under the guise of e-learning KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE reports.
Lagos urges dialogue on e-learning
Third term not yet in session
Govt offers free e-learning platforms
The world is not the same. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has disrupted everything – education inclusive. The whole of the second term holidays for the 2019/2020 academic session was spent observing the lockdown put in place by the Federal Government to check the spread of the virus.
As schools cannot resume yet physically, virtual learning has taken centre stage. Governments at federal and state levels have introduced curriculum-based classes on radio and television stations as well as online.
Private schools have not been idle either. Many have introduced e-learning using WhatsApp, Zoom, Google classrooms, Microsoft Teams, and a host of other Apps.
However, there has been trouble with attempts by some private schools to resume the third term online this week and force parents to pay fees for the virtual classes. This has raised ire from parents who have described the move as insensitive.
The Federal Government shut all schools on March 23, and encouraged e-learning. However, it has not directed schools to start the third term online.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, has come out to say that the third term has not started officially.
“Please, note that the third term resumption remains postponed until directives to the contrary,” she said in a statement last weekend.
Nevertheless, parents are upset schools are demanding for school fees for virtual classes.
The mail to announce that her 19-month-old should resume classes online and pay 90 per cent of his fees irked Mrs. Toyin Feibo so much that she withdrew her son from school and wrote a poem of her experience.
“They were insensitive; selfish; inconsiderate asking me to pay that huge amount for a service that I can get on the internet for free. Even if I have the money I won’t pay.
I sent a mail that my son had dropped out. It was that line that inspired me to write the poem,” said Mrs. Feibo, a writer and activist.
Mrs. Feibo said she would educate her son at home for now, saying she had a lot of experience training his three older siblings.
“At his age I can conveniently take care of his education. He is the fourth child with three much older siblings attending different schools.
I am not a first-time mum; I know what to do to give the child the best. The reason I am paying money at all for school is so I can go to work,” she said.
Mrs. Feibo is not the only parent opting out of e-learning. Another parent vented her frustration on Twitter a few days ago. @Aunty-Les fumed about being asked to pay full school fees for a two-year-old in a tweet that was liked over 30,000 times.
She wrote: “My son’s school sent a mail that virtual learning starts next week and we should pay full school fees. School fees for a two-year-old to learn online, someone that can’t sit for five minutes to watch PJ Masks. My dear, he has dropped out. Force Majeure!”
She added that the boy would learn on Youtube Kids.
The issue on whether schools should charge for e-learning while the pandemic lasts was hotly debated on popular education group on Facebook, the Concerned Parents and Educators (CPE) network. Many parents were not having it.
One of them, Chidinma Nnanna, said she would use minimal funds she had for food, not for e-learning.
“For me, l have started teaching my children already; thank goodness l can teach. Any money l have now is for food stuff because we do not know when this pandemic will end,” she said.
Another parent, Mrs. Debola Afolabi Ijisesan, who is based in Akure, said e-learning should be offered free of charge by schools as pupils did not exhaust the second term fees before schools were forced to close two weeks earlier than scheduled.
She said: “Schools should be able to do that free. Pupils paid fully for second term, the charges included examination and other unachieved programmes. And some so-called school owners did not pay March salary; let the service be free. When school resumes let the pupils commence payment.”
However, Mrs. Ijisesan said her son’s school was not charging parents for e-learning.
“In my child’s school, they are not charged. Parents are to ensure they are online and make sure submission is made at the given time,” she said.
Some parents said schools should consider that e-learning requires them to provide devices, spend on data, fuel generators to make for gaps in electricity supply, and still supervise these children. They argued that they should be paid for such efforts as well.
Some school owners said they were not charging fees for e-learning presently but may consider it should the closure extend.
Chairman of Mind Builders School, Mr. Bosun Falore, said parents with children in their four schools in Ikeja, and Omole Phase One and Two Estates have been informed that they would not have to pay for e-learning presently.
A newsletter sent to all parents noted that third term fees would be paid when schools officially resume.
It states: “Plans have been finalised effective from next week to get our students engaged in key academic activities to avoid a gap in learning which will definitely be detrimental to students if allowed.
“These extra academic activities are coming at no extra cost to the parents for now and we do not intend to make any demand for third term fees till we resume officially at the instance of Lagos State Government.
“We quite understand that most parents have had no income in the last four weeks, although some are still owing second term school fees to the tune of about N10.2 million as at date. We expect the redemption of promises made by all parents in this category as soon as possible.”
At Al-Azeemah Schools, Omole Phase 2, Director of Studies, Mrs. O. Jimoh Qudrah, said the school only charged outsiders for e-learning while registered pupils were enjoying its Microsoft Team’s platform free.
While it charged pre-school N7,000 monthly, the primary school classes were to pay N10,000 monthly.
Mrs. Qudrah said COVID-19 lockdown helped to fast-track the school’s e-learning component, adding that parents were happy with it and subscribed.
“The training started immediately the lockdown began as we had the plan to add e-learning support to our school services even before Covid-19 and lockdown. It just fast-tracked the process.
“Our parents’ response was great, supportive and respectful. I must say they embraced the virtual learning with open arms. If I am to talk about percentage, I will say 92% of our pupils are active,” she told The Nation.
However, City of Knowledge Academy (CKA), a co-educational boarding school in Ijebu Ode in Ogun State, has resumed for the third term online. Head of School Ms. Abiola Lamikanra announced the resumption of classes last week on LinkedIn.
In her post, Ms. Lamikanra said: “Welcome to the third term of the 2019/2020 school year. Welcome to the ‘new normal’ of Online School.
The present ‘endless uncertainty’ makes Alvin Toffler statement so real The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. In CKA we have embraced the new normal with resilience, flexibility and determination.”
The school’s official LinkedIn Page noted that all activities, including assembly, hold online.
“All activities – from our weekly assembly to normal school classes and extracurricular activities now hold online. Stay safe and close to CKA online”, the school noted.
It even named the best pupil in the first week of school.
“Even as an online student, Abdulmujeeb Asade was on his best behaviour to earn the Student of the Week, Week 1 Award. He exhibited good character traits by doing what was needful when no one was watching. Congratulations!!!”
Ms. Lamikanra however did not respond to messages by The Nation seeking to know why the school started the third term ahead of government directive.
Mrs. Adefisayo said schools should discuss charges with parents, noting that both parties had valid reasons for concern.
“Most schools are charging for this online service; often at a discount on existing tuition fees while some schools are charging full fees.
“Parents are concerned about the cost to them of this programme, ranging from fees charged by schools to cost of data and devices as well as the cost of fuelling generators to ensure steady electricity power supply. Parents also have to supervise online teachings to guard against the exposure of children to pornography, in addition to online harassment and bullying.
“The Ministry calls for continuous dialogue between school administrators and parents. We are aware that most parents are not working and earning money at the moment.
We are also aware that schools continue to incur costs as teachers and other members of the staff have to be paid for providing online teaching.
Furthermore, the schools, in some cases, will have to purchase devices for teachers and provide them with data to prepare for the daily teaching activities,” she said.