By Vivian Okafor
It is a known adage that “education is the hope of the poor.” The poor believe that once they are able to train their children in school, they will be liberated out of poverty.
This is because when their children graduate and get good jobs, they will be able to fend for their families.
This is why some parents go to any length including borrowing to see their children through school. Some even starve in order to save up for tuitions. The question is, ‘Is education accessible for the poor?’
In Nigeria today, a lot of factors militate against education pursuit. These factors have made it difficult or even impossible for the poor to get educated. They have succeeded in dashing the hope of the poor man for a brighter tomorrow which education offers. One of such factors is admission tussle. After sitting and passing University Matriculation Examination with good grades, students still need to pay their way into being admitted in any University in Nigeria especially in public institutions. Those who cannot afford to pay, end up not getting admitted even with their high grades. Those who did not even pass but have the money to pay their way through, get admitted to any department of their choices. Admission is not offered on merit but on money.
The second factor is constant hike of tuitions by institutions of learning. It is now a norm that the yardstick for measuring the standard and quality of schools is through the amount paid as tuition in such schools. School owners, in a bid to attract wealthy and influetial people to their schools, hike their schools’ tuitions to make their schools look standard enough for the wealthy to enrol their children. In this case, the poor are not considered when increasing the tuition outrageously.
The worst part of it all is that the so called missionary schools are not helping matters. These schools are built by members of the church that own the schools yet. The members pay levies, tithes and offerings in order to have these schools established, and when the schools are finally established, the members find it difficult to send their children to the schools due to the tuitions. The members who sacrificed their all to see that the schools are established are not considered when increasing the tuition. It is quite disheartening.
When one finally surmounts the exorbitant tuition, especially in higher institutions, strike action raises its ugly head against one’s desire and readiness to acquire education that is “the hope of the poor man”. What is supposed to be a four-year or five-year course as the case may be, turns out to be a seven-year or nine-year course. As a result of this, some students get discouraged from going to school or continuing when the strike action is called off. Many students, in a bid to survive during such periods, get involved in illicit activities that are of national concern.
In addition, there are other significant hurdles that Nigerian students must surmount to achieve their goal. Such include, high hostel fees paid by students. Sometimes, students pay so high just to secure a bed space in the school’s hostels for an academic session.
This, together with the tuition, make it difficult for some parents to afford sending their wards to school. How about the costs of textbooks and handouts which some lecturers make mandatory for students just to pass their courses? How about departmental fees? I forgot to mention, Acceptance Fee, which is an indication that admission has been offered to the students.
Finally, the insecurity situation in schools, especially in universities also affect one’s desire to acquire education. Cultism is now the order of the day in higher institutions. Even when a student is not interested in joining, he/she is threatened into joining or his/her life is made miserable in the school. Many students have abandoned school and their dreams because of fear emanating from such threats. Constant clashes between different cult groups also endanger students’ lives as dangerous weapons like guns, machete, etc, are used in such situations. Many students have lost their lives and some maimed from such clashes.
After considering all these, one can only conclude that education in Nigeria is a nightmare, especially for those who desire it but cannot afford it. This is so, because after careful calculation of the financial obligations, one may jolt from the nightmare and begin to consider other alternatives rather than education.
Vivian Okafor is of the English Language Department of the Lagos State University, Ojo