For two decades, Telesis School, situated in the Alakuko area of Lagos, thrived as an academic centre, striving to provide sound education for many families resident in the community and its environs. But, as schools resumed across the country recently for a new academic session, the gates of the institution has remained shut to the teaching staff and pupils.
A former official in the Finance Department of the school told PUNCH on condition of anonymity, on Thursday that the closure was due to the present economic recession in the country.
He said, “The school was established in 1996 and it has survived many challenges. Before the economic situation in the country got this bad, it had a good standard and we could not afford go below it. Then parents began to owe the management a lot of money and they started withdrawing their children from the school in large numbers.
“When we asked why they were taking the kids to other schools that fell below the standard of our school, some of them told us that they had lost their jobs, while others had changed jobs. We used to have between 300 and 400 pupils. When the population suddenly came down to about 50, the proprietress then told us she had to close down the school rather than owe the staff salaries.”
But investigation shows that the TS is only one of several schools in Alakuko, affected by the present economic situation. When our correspondent visited the premises last week, the main building, which housed classrooms, was empty. There was no indication that academic activities took place in the building a few months ago.
A former member of the teaching staff of the school also told PUNCH that a series of events led to the closure.
“A lot of factors have contributed to the closure of the school. Apart from the fact that parents were owing money, we were being owed salaries before the school eventually packed up,” she said.
Although the Vice-President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, Chief Yomi Otubela, told our correspondent that the recession had indeed forced many schools to close down.
“Unofficial reports have claimed that schools are closing down. Some proprietors are even putting up their schools for sale, so that they can go into other businesses. The recession has forced many parents, who used to pay their children’s fees before resumption, to plead to schools proprietors for understanding, so that they can pay in December. It has happened in my school, too,’’ he said.
As the recession bites harder, more schools appear to be crumbling under the impact. Others are struggling to survive the hard times. Burdened by non-payment of salaries and rising inflation, many parents have opted to withdraw their children from high-paying private schools to medium-priced private schools or public schools.
Also, while some schools have offered discounts to parents so as to retain their pupils, others have reviewed their payment plans in order to reduce the burden borne by parents.
However, educationists who spoke with our correspondent described the situation as a “mixed bag of experiences”. In some of the schools monitored by our correspondent, officials claimed that there was no significant drop in attendance. But, in a few others, the proprietors lamented poor turnout and enrolment rate for the new session.
A teacher in Masterpiece Schools, Lagos, Mr. Bode Aguda, said that seven pupils had yet to resume in his class. However, he added that the class gained some new members who were withdrawn from neighbouring schools.
”I am still expecting the seven pupils, but we also gained a few newcomers. Some of them came from schools that have shut down. The rest were withdrawn by their parents from more expensive schools in the area. The impact of the recession is real, but we are also getting new pupils,” he said.
The situation was not different at the Mind Builders School in Ikeja, Lagos. While admitting that some parents asked for concessions, the Chairman of the school, Mr. Bosun Falore, said that the turnout on resumption day did affirm that many parents would ensure that their children got quality education.
“The attendance was okay. Most of the pupils that were absent had not returned from their holiday trips. The effect of the recession was not as drastic as we expected. My conclusion is that quality education is paramount to most parents. A parent would prefer to sacrifice food than to sacrifice quality education. There has been no substantial drop in attendance.
“It needs to be mentioned that some returning parents requested to pay their children’s fees in installments. We decided to give discounts to parents who have more than two children in the school. We have also ensured that our tuition fees remain the same for our older customers,” he said.
Although some pupils have not resumed in her school, the Chief Operating Officer, Supreme Education Foundation, Lagos, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, is confident that they will join their colleagues soon. The educationist, who spoke with our correspondent in a telephone interview on Wednesday, said, “We are still at the same level that we were before the holidays. Some pupils are not back, but they should be in school soon. We know it is harder for the parents, but it looks like we are still in the same level as we were.”
At Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, the Vice Principal, Mr. Muraino Olusesi, said that the turnout on resumption day did not call for concern.
“We have since resumed for the new academic session. Only a few pupils have not returned to school and we are in touch with them. We have told those parents who could not pay their children’s fees at a go that we can structure a payment plan to benefit both parties,” he said.