Unpaid salary: Workers sell properties to pay children’s tuition

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Civil servants have been struggling to raise money to pay their children’s tuition, as primary and secondary schools pupils resume for the second term academic activities in many states of the federation on Monday, January 11, 2016. Punch report.

Some civil servants across the country are now putting their goods and properties up for sale to pay their children’s tuition and fund their return to school amid cash crunch, findings have revealed.

Workers are increasingly finding it difficult to cope because of the economic downturn occasioned by falling oil prices in the country as many state governments owe workers’ salaries while some have slashed salaries by up to 50 per cent.

Our correspondents learnt that because of the situation, some civil servants have resorted to selling some of their goods to support their children who are returning to school after the Yuletide break.

Some of the goods and properties being put up for sale by the workers include land, livestock and home appliances like refrigerators, television and radio sets.

For instance, the last salary that was paid to civil servants in Oyo State was for October 2015.

A school teacher in the state, who identified himself as Mr. Adebola, said he had to sell a plot of land he had on the outskirts of Ibadan, Oyo State capital, to get the N80, 000 needed by his daughter who had got admission at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

He said, “We have not been paid salaries for November and December and my first daughter, who has been given admission at FUNAAB, will resume on Monday.

“She needs to pay N31, 000 as Acceptance fee; N25, 000 as tuition; N20, 000 for accommodation and N5, 000 for computer fee. When my wife and I could not get the money, we had to sell a piece of land that we have been unable to develop for a long time so that our daughter can resume in the university with her mates.”

Also in Plateau State, where the state government owes workers three months salaries, some civil servants have been struggling to fund their children’s education ahead of schools’ resumption.

Governor Simon Lalong inherited a burden of nine months’ salary arrears when he assumed office in May 2015 and he has not been paying workers at the same time but one ministry after the other.

A civil servant, Mr. Aliyu Mana, whose wife is also a local government worker, described their financial situation as poor, adding that he had put some of his properties like livestock and household items up for sale to interested buyers.

Mana said he has a child in the Plateau State University and two others in private secondary school, who need money to return to their schools and that he had already informed some friends and relatives about some animals and items he was willing to sell.

He said, “My children are returning to school after the Christmas holiday but the situation has been tough because we are being owed salaries by the state government. The situation is such that we cannot ordinarily afford the education expenses of our children if we don’t sell some of our properties.

“I have told friends and relatives that I have some animals and a deep freezer to sell if they are interested in buying or know someone who is. I’m positive that I will be able to sell those things by the time they start disturbing my children in their schools.”

Since July 2015, civil servants in Osun State have been paid half salaries and even at that, the salary that was paid to them for November.

A widow working in the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Felicia Oyenuga, said with the move, her salary had been slashed to N25,000, which has made it more difficult to settle her financial obligations.

Oyenuga said she has decided to sell some jewellery, and empty crates and bottles of soft drinks to raise some money for her child, who needs N75,000 in school- Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso.

She said, “I have only been able to raise N10,000 out of the money and it was given to me by a friend.

“I have some jewellery, crates and bottles at home that I want to sell to raise the rest of the money. Í’m desperate to raise the money by any lawful means.”

In Imo State, some civil servants are being owed two months’ salaries while others are being owed more.

Similarly, some workers in the state have also resorted to selling their goods and properties to pay their children’s school fees and other education-related requirements.

Mrs. Blessing Okereke, a civil servant, said her children may not resume to school on Monday with their colleagues following the Christmas break.

She said that her children had not paid their tuition and that they would need clearance slips issued to pupils who have paid before being permitted to enter their school.

She said, “So I have been trying to sell some of my jewellery and other stuff to get some money for my children’s school fees. The school they attend does not accept stories; they will not let your child in if you don’t pay the fees to the last kobo.

“I will do anything it takes for my children because I understand how embarrassing it will be for them not to join their colleagues in school. We could not even celebrate Christmas because there was no money. Things are really bad for government workers in Imo State.”

Although private and public schools resumed for the second term academic work in Ondo State on Monday, January 4, 2016, civil servants in the state have also attempted to raise money through the sale of their properties to pay their children’s tuition.

Ondo State workers were paid their October salaries a few days before last Christmas and many of them said they had spent the money on the celebration of the Yuletide for their children.

A worker with the Ondo State Development and Property Corporation, who identified himself as Olubunmi Ademisoga, confirmed to one of our correspondents that many people, majority of who are civil servants, had contacted him to help them sell their landed properties which are in various locations in Akure, the state capital, and the environs.

According to him, the intended sellers complain that they want to use the proceeds from the sale to pay their children’s tuition, especially those in private schools.

Ademisoga added that more civil servants had been contacting him to help them sell their properties, despite the fact that few buyers, businessmen, were showing interests.

He said two civil servants – one from Akure South Local Government Area and the other from the Ondo State Teaching Service Commission – whose names he refused to mention, were among those who spoke to him early in the week about their intention to sell their properties for the purpose of raising money to pay their children’s tuition.

According to investigation, the situation appears more critical in Ekiti State where workers have been offering their electronic gadgets and home appliances such as televisions, fridges and radios, among others, for sale.

A senior official in the Ekiti State Ministry of Education, who simply gave his name as Abimbola Oninurere, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that he saw the need to sell one of his cars as the last option because he could not afford to stop the education of his children halfway.

He said of his four female children, two are already in the university, while the last two are in private school in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.

“I never expected that the situation could become worse to the extent of selling my personal properties to pay my children’s school fees, which I should ordinarily not find difficult to do,” Oninurere said, adding, “My first daughter is studying Law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, while her immediate younger one is a student of Mass Communication at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. So, asking them to withdraw from schooling because of lack of money, especially feeding allowance caused by irregular or non-payment of salary, will be a great mistake.”

Asked whether his wife was not contributing to the funding of the children’s education, he said, “Before, she was the one buying provisions and food stuff for the children while I paid the school fees, but the story changed immediately the state government demolished the Erekesan market in Ado-Ekiti where she was selling clothes.”

A 51-year-old public servant in the state, Mrs. Idowu Anipupo, who said she sold her giant furniture wardrobe last year and used the proceeds realised there to pay for the registration of her daughter’s West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination, claimed that she might be forced to sell more of the properties left behind by her late husband to pay her children’s school fees during the current academic term.

She explained that what made the matter worse was that her tenants, who are equally civil servants, have not paid their rents for the past one year.

“Anytime I ask them to pay their rents, they usually tell me to wait till the payment of salaries are regular,” she said.

An educationist and Professor of Psychology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Oluwatoba Elegbeleye, commended the concerned workers for doing something out of the ordinary to fund their children’s education, but warned them to always plan their spending according to the size of their salaries.

He condemned a situation in which some civil servants will overreach themselves in terms of planning to acquire what their monthly pay cannot support.

Elegbeleye said, “There is no crime in selling one’s property to pay the children’s tuition, but what is not advisable is to lay hands in what the person’s salary cannot support.

“Schools are in categories; parents can choose for their children the ones they have the capacities to pay. The wise thing for them to do is to plan in accordance with their financial capacities, which they derive mostly from their monthly salaries.”

Also, the Head of Economics Department, OAU, Prof. Abayomi Adebayo, said the situation might become worse unless the government took drastic measures to reduce its dependence on oil.

While confirming to one of our correspondents that many civil servants have been living on support from churches and other faith-based groups, Adebayo said the situation would affect service delivery.

He said, “I have many civil servants, especially teachers, around me who were paid half of their salaries last month. They were not even sure if their salaries have technically been reduced. Their condition would have become critical than what they are currently passing through but for the generosity of some churches and others that have been contributing to their welfare.

“This is what happens in a country that determines workers’ salaries based on oil prices. This will actually affect service delivery because I cannot expect workers doing their best when they are owed salaries for months.”