The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard and all sectors have been affected. The need for preventing spread of the virus has seen social distancing become a compulsory action globally and to this effect, all schools were closed and have been for several months now, with possibilities for further extensions all factors considered.
Schools are for-profit businesses with a very successful model where they get paid in advance before offering the service. They say it’s usually a partnership between the school, parents, and students each party contributing their part; the school offering education and other co-curricular services, the parents offering their children to be taught and paying fees, and in turn, the students receive the much-required education that helps in forging bright futures for themselves and the society. However, is the partnership on a level playing field? Is it a fair one? In that, if a parent whose been a ‘customer’ to a school for ages by an unfortunate turn of events is unable to pay the fee for a single term in time or completely, the child will not be allowed to attend school and worse still sit in for the terms exam regardless of the delay duration, previous history and the full knowledge that the parent will still pay for the fees.
When we pay for fees, what are we paying for? The core product is usually the education hence the tuition fee, but this accounts for just a fraction of the fees. All the other services provided by the school are what account for most of the fees. They include the school’s brand, comfort in infrastructure, location placement, study material, meals, transport, amenities if any such as pool, groomed yard, and costs such as electricity, water, and staff just to mention a few. I would estimate that these other costs aside from tuition account more than 51% of the fees. If you inquire further how much the actual education costs, I’m sure you’ll be just as shocked as anyone else would. Having all this in mind, should we pay for the full-term fees as some schools are still demanding despite schools being closed and students at home? Should we take the 10% discount offered and look at the other side as we’ve always done every time the fees go up at the start of a new school year?
Most schools in other continents such as the UK have reduced fees to upwards of 50% and have well-organized e-learning services. Offering a 10% discount as the final ultimatum, with poor to no e-learning services is shrewd and very undiplomatic. What happens to students with no internet access during this period? A further step of schools trying their level best to discourage any communication among the stakeholders on current issues of fees, e-learning, and fee discounting is unwarranted.
It’s said the reason God put a neck below our heads is so that we can turn our heads and look for better opportunities. The fact that the traditional school system has worked efficiently for the many years and mints lots of profits to the said businesses does not mean they cannot be phased out having that this is the digital age. People have options, many of them, the only reason the options haven’t been explored is there was no need for the change but now that the pandemic has created a need for change in the system, this is as much of a push to a new normal. New age investors and entrepreneurs now closely looking to explore these loopholes and should serve as a hint to schools of a possible shift, maybe a mass exodus to online platforms.
“There is a Ghanaian African proverb that goes, even the lion, king of the forest still protects itself from flies his fierce roar notwithstanding.”
Schools have been the lions when it comes to education, fixed to the traditional model of physical presence to the classrooms but when the flies come in this case as COVID-19 pandemic, they also have to protect themselves and bend to the needs of their stakeholders not forcing an iron rule. The reaction to the pandemic from schools on how they treat the stakeholders during this period will have a great impact on the future of education.