Despite the exorbitant fees charged by private universities, some Nigerian parents still prefer to send their wards there for various reasons
| By Vincent Nzemeke | May 27, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IN 1999, when the National Universities Commission (NUC) granted license to Madonna University to operate as the first private university in the country, many parents welcomed it as a big relief. Frustrated by lecturers’ incessant strikes, poor infrastructures and other challenges bedeviling public education, those who had the wherewithal promptly withdrew their children from federal and state government-owned institutions and enrolled them in the school.
A few years after Madonna was established, more private universities sprang up in various parts of the country. Religious organisations and wealthy individuals joined the race by setting up private universities. Today, there are more than 20 private universities scattered across the length and breadth of Nigeria. And despite the exorbitant fees charged by these institutions, some upper and middle class Nigerians still prefer to send their children there because they believe they offer more than government-owned universities. The fees paid by students in private universities per session, is more than what a student in a public university pays to complete a four or five years course. For instance, Babcock, a private university owned by Seventh Day Adventist Church recently released its school fees list for next session. The list which details what students in the institution are expected to pay for the new academic session which begins in September 2013 has made the school the butt of many jokes on the internet and social media.
Under the new arrangement, medical students are to pay N3m. Those studying Law are to pay N2m and Accounting students will pay N1.5 million. For those studying Nursing and other courses, it is N1m and N860, 000, respectively. Although many consider the new fee structure outrageous, Babcock is still not the most expensive private university in the country. At the American University of Nigeria, Yola, students pay as much as N1, 590,000 per session. The institution which attracts students from within and outside Nigeria is owned by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Compared to those mentioned above, private universities such as Covenant, Igbinedion, Bowen and Redeemers are less expensive but still out of the reach of the average Nigerian family. In these schools, the tuition fee is between N400 – N700, 000 per session.
For those who can afford it, there are many reasons for sending their children to private universities. The falling standard of education, never ending strikes by academic staff and an acute lack of necessary facilities discourage such parents from enrolling their children in public universities.
Innocent Osemaye, a Lagos-based banker, has two of his children in Covenant University, Ota. He says even though the financial implications of sending them to a private university worries him sometimes, it is better than having them in public universities where the standard of education is at its lowest ebb.
“Sending your children to a private university is a big challenge financially but the benefits are also immense. The standard of education in our public schools has really fallen to the lowest level and you can be sure your kids will learn nothing there. I want the best for my children, so I prefer the private universities even though it is expensive. If you go to Covenant University, you will definitely be impressed by the quality of education and conducive environment they offer. Good things don’t come cheap”.
For other parents like Olufemi Adeyemo, speed and a consistent academic calendar are the only reasons why he pays over N1m as school fees every year for his children at Redeemers University. Adeyemo, who is also a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, added that the disruption caused by strikes in public universities can affect a child negatively.
He said: “The only reason I have my children in a private university is because of the consistent academic calendar. You can be sure your child will graduate at the right time unlike what obtains in our public universities where lecturers go on strike regularly”.
Convincing as their arguments sound, there are a few parents who are struggling to meet the financial obligations of having their children in private universities. For such parents, the difficulty in securing admission in public universities is the only rationale for sending their children to a private university.
Maria Ibeh, a single mother, has two daughters in Novena University. She admits that she was forced to enroll them there after failed attempts at getting admission in public universities. She said: “My first daughter wrote JAMB three times and passed but she didn’t get admission because we didn’t know anyone in the school who could help. I had no other choice than sending her to a private school because she was losing time staying at home”.
Some students in private universities admitted that their parents sent them there after failed attempts at securing admission in public universities. Toyin Oladipe, a graduate of Babcock University, said her parents decided to enroll her in a private school when she couldn’t get admission in a public university after going through a diploma programme in the school.
Toyin, who is now a Youth Corps member in Kogi State, said: “I did a diploma programme at Olabisi Onabanjo University. I was supposed to get direct entry admission after the programme but I missed out even though I had a good result in the diploma. I wasted about two years trying to get the admission until my parents decided that I was going to a private university.”
Regardless of the reasons cited by parents for sending their children to private universities, there are still those who find it unjustifiable. To such people, the outrageous fees charged by these private schools can only be afforded by the super rich in the society.
There are also people like Jude Ohonimbe, a lecturer, who says he can’t send his children to a private university for any reason.
“These private schools are way too expensive and out of the reach of the average family. They may have the best facilities and environment but they are not better than our public schools. The lecturers there are products of public universities and the NUC ratings show that public universities are still the best in spite of the many challenges.”