We are at another time of the year when many parents send their children to school. For some parents, this may be the first time their child is going to school; for others, it can be a promotion from one class to another. It can also be a transfer to another school.
No matter the class your child is attending this new academic year, you must rethink and plan as you send the children back to school. We should think about other important matters beyond the physical structure of the school the children attend. For instance, the issue relating to the school fee cost and the material we procure for those children.
In this article, the author shares a few things Gambian parents can consider during this back-to-school session.
1. Choose a school according to available resources.
I remember in August 2000 when I enrolled in the Nusrat Senior Secondary School, one of the low-cost high schools in the Gambia. All students were required to wear simple uniforms, white sports shoes and no shining earrings or necklaces for our sisters. Yet, Nusrat was one of the top 3 performing schools in the country, and I believe it has maintained this position.
The success of children’s future or educational results does not depend solely on how much the parents pay for the school fees. Multiple factors influence students’ performances, some of which money cannot buy. Simple matters like counselling, role modelling, and mentoring go a long way in inspiring students to succeed in class and life.
Therefore, we must send children to schools according to committed and available financial resources in the family while considering other demanding needs. If you are earning D10,000 income per month, it will be an unwise financial decision to send your child to a school that charges D40,000 per annum without a scholarship. Do you know that child in secondary school needs to go to university in the future? Do you know that the family has other needs from the D10,000, including emergency savings, accommodation and feeding?
My brothers and sisters, fellow salary earners and entrepreneurs, let us review and plan before we send our children to school. A good family budgeting can help here.
If you have a family budget, it’ll take the conversation of all the family’s incomes from all sources, including investment income. Then consider all the potential expenses, including school fees every quarter.
A family budget is essential for school planning, especially in the current global situation. The price of basic commodities has skyrocketed due to the triple wave of COVID-19, the War in Ukraine and interest rate hikes. There is no better financial management approach in this critical time than to jealousy manage our scared financial resources.
Of course, you would not want to pay 1st term school fees covering three months and find that in the second month, there is no school allowance (lunch) for the children.
Such problems can be forecasted and managed through a family budget. If you had a budget since June 2022, it would show your ability to pay school fees in September without going into sudden financial stress. A budget is like seeing an opponent from afar. You can put tactical measures in place. For instance, you can look for additional income sources or cut non-essential expenses (austerity measures).
3. Have a dedicated savings account
Budgeting is not enough. You must focus and execute it. For school fees, you should open a savings account or another account. As soon as the salary is paid, transfer a fixed amount to this dedicated savings account. The account should be used for school fee payments only, except for emergencies like medical. Events like holiday trips, weddings or naming ceremonies are not emergencies because they are planned occasions.
4. Have a family discussion
When the government prepares plans such as the budget, they often consult with the stakeholders. It would be best if you adopt the same. As you prepare your family budget, you should consult everyone in the family- children and your spouse. These offer two benefits – They will feel part of the family’s financial decisions, especially if only one spouse makes money. It also makes it a plan for the family to which everyone commits and supports you.
If you cannot send children to a particular school due to cost, this is the best time to explain to them. I believe open discussion with kids can sometimes inspire them to do better.
5. Take Personal Responsibility for Kids results.
West African Examination Council (WAEC) recently released the Grade 12 results. We are all concerned about the number of students we could not achieve better credits. Many people took their social media spaces and blamed the government. They are right to point fingers at the government.
However, the failures in our school and society are systemic issues. The government should not be blamed alone as they are just one of the parties to the school systems. We all should accept our share of the bigger issue of education. – parents, teachers, students and the community.
We all need to take personal responsibility for the challenges and success in our community. Many distractions are roaming on social media. Be it Facebook, TikTok or Instagram, the information on these sites can be good but sometimes distracting.
Our children will not be educated because we pay for expensive schools. Our children will not be educated because they appear in class every day. Our children will only be educated when we take on personal responsibilities with the school and government.
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, we have a country to build. We have a generation to build. Hence, we should show a keen interest in what is happening in school, including attending PTA meetings, spending time with our children and understanding what they are learning and their concerns. All parents should be the first coach and mentors to their children.
We should remember that life does not give us what we deserve; life will only give us what we have decided.
Therefore, as you plan back to school, you should decide from today that you will set your family budget according to your bigger financial plan and take more interest in your children’s education.