OPINION : As The Kids Return For The New Academic Term

By Rasak Musbau

The Christmas and New Year celebrations are over and attention is now on children returning to school for the commencement of the second academic term on Monday, January 8 for day students and Sunday, January 7 2024 for boarders.

As usual, this development, especially considering the closeness of the resumption date to the just concluded Yuletide season, is eliciting challenges and excitement among parents, guardians, teachers, and of course, pupils.

For parents whose wards particularly attend private schools, the fear of school fees is always the beginning of wisdom. This is so especially in this period when the parents’ income does not increase and prices of goods and services are on the rise almost daily.

Worryingly, in most private schools, school fees continue to soar high while most parents take homes remain poor. For those who for one reason or the other the wards have to change schools, the situation becomes more complicated.

Can we blame private school proprietors for an increase in tuition fees? Honestly, we can’t. The economic hardship in the country is across every stratum. Almost the cost of everything in the country, running costs, and expenses have doubled, necessitating the need to hike fees.

School resumption can fill parents with dread and anxiety because of its huge financial implications.

This is why some have cultivated the habit of paying ahead of the school resumption to forestall embarrassment. Sadly, many cannot help the situation because their income is just too low.

Consequently, most parents are forced to go cap in hand, begging from friends and relations that are considered better off financially for assistance towards tackling this perennial problem.

Parents and guardians alike apply for all forms of loans, overdrafts, and so on from banks, Co-operatives, and other financial institutions to meet their huge financial demands of educating their wards.

The advice is that parents and guardians should not be engrossed in this problem to the extent of contributing to out-of school children phenomenon.

If private schools are not affordable, public schools are to a large extent free in most states in Nigeria.

In Lagos State, for instance, the government runs an inclusive educational system aimed at ensuring all children complete nine years of basic education. No doubt, many kids will find it difficult to get back to the school routine, notwithstanding, it’s just a three weeks holiday.

They’ve been accustomed to watching late movies and playing computer games and social media. Yes, it’s easy for kids to become night owls when they can sleep in the next morning.

These habits can make the first week of resumption quite challenging, even for the most motivated student. With the holiday festivities over, the kids need help to get back to school mode.

We have to give them the tools they need to have a ready, set, go attitude in the New Year and academic term.

Before sending him/her back to the classroom, cut on screen time and ease back to a reasonable bedtime. Take inventory of your child’s school supplies. Does he/she need refills on exercise books or pencils? Help him/her return to school with pencils sharpened and notebooks organized.

Parents should not send their children to school like a farmer going to farm without farming tools. It is not just right. While it is true that you may have had a PTA meeting just before the break, but then if not, you need to take a moment this month to check in with your ward’s teacher about your child’s progress.

It is still early enough in the year to work on behavior or skills that could hold your child back from reaching his/her full potential in his current grades.

In achieving this, there is a need to constantly keep the line of communication open. Just like at the start of the year, your child will have to get back into the habit of regular homework. The more often you can make yourself available to help your child, the better.

If we have done our part, then questions can now be asked about what governments and school proprietors have done in preparing for the resumption.

We can ask questions like, what has been done regarding the problem of inadequate teachers, and water and sanitation challenges where they exist. In security, have they cut the overgrown grasses and do something about collapsed or collapsing school fences?

Has anything been done to improve the quality of public education? How much are governments nationwide concentrating on improving schools until they meet the highest ideals in the current budget and the long run?

Despite the overwhelming challenge of school resumption to many parents, it is painful to note that the transporters usually see this time as a period to add to the pain. It is not a wild assertion; the reality is that transport fares are often hiked throughout the early weeks of resumption.

It is another unwelcome tradition. Let us just hope that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Ltd’s response to the plans to increase the fuel pump price to N1,200 per liter is correct as any increase in fuel prices during this period will compound the hardship.

The Okada and Danfo bus business will boom but it is a time when everyone must be ready to caution unruly behaviour of transporters in the aspect of zebra crossing, over speeding especially along school roads.

For the philanthropists and a few politicians who have made the provision of free school buses a project, it is a legacy that will live after them. It’s time for more people to come into the fold because every investment in our children is a sure venture into the future of our dear nation.

Meanwhile, parents and guardians alike should continue to do the best they could to ensure that their children are well educated while governments across the country should continue to invest more in education.This is where the future lies.

Rasak Musbau, Deputy Director, Public Affairs Unit, Lagos State Infrastructure Asset Management Agency (LASIAMA), Alausa, Ikeja.

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