…as govt, schools’ managements impose new levies
By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Shina Ibrahim runs home in tears. The Senior School Certificate student of Success International School, Ajegunle, along Oshodi- Abeokuta expressway was sent away as a result of his inability to pay a levy of N2000 per candidate preparing to write the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination, SSCE, that is scheduled to start August 17.
He had earlier in February paid N40,000 for the examination, in spite of the fact that the official registration fee was less than N20,000. Ibrahim’s plight is not peculiar, many schools have imposed varying levies ranging from N2000 to N20,000 depending on the strength and reputation of the school.
Adeola Adebayo, a final year student of Daryl Comprehensive College, nibbled his father, a roadside mechanic to cough out N3000 to pay for the levy imposed on final year students. The levy is meant to pay for “coaching” organized by these schools to prepare students for the SSCE coming up in two weeks time, as well as the cost of the reopening in the provision of logistics.
The excuse these schools gave parents is that the schools are broke as a result of the pandemic and the prolonged lockdowns. To compound, the woes of parents who have been battered economically by the pandemic, the minister of education have said private schools have the right to charge third term fees, in spite of the fact that the term is about to end without schools resumption. The minister was reacting to protest by some parents.
Only recently, the Ogun State government imposed a levy of N25,000 on students in private secondary school preparing for SSCE examination that is due in two weeks time. The government said the fee was for the COVID-19 test. But miffed by this development, parents of pupils in private schools in Ogun State have protested against the N25,000 fee returning boarding students have been asked to pay for a Coronavirus test.
The state had earlier fixed resumption of SS3 students for Tuesday, months after a nationwide halt of academic activities over the COVID-19 pandemic. The reopening is to allow the students to prepare for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) slated to begin on August 17.
However, as part of the conditions for school resumption, the state government announced that COVID-19 and malaria tests are mandatory for returning boarding students. While the COVID-19 test is free for public secondary school students, their counterparts in private schools are required to pay N25,000.
BusinessHallmark had earlier reported how some of the parents took their demonstrations to the streets, faulting the decision of the government to ask them to pay. The dissatisfied parents on two Sundays ago, thronged the 250-bed MTR specialist hospital, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, the designated place for the pupils in Abeokuta after attempts to get their wards tested for free failed.
Some parents who spoke with this newspaper on Sunday described the fee as insensitive on the part of the state government.
“How many parents can afford to pay N25,000 in Ogun where there is acute poverty?” a parent whose child attends Redeemers’ High school in Mowe asked. “The ministers of health and education should better think of another means to rake in money from people,” she said.
Another parent, who spoke with our reporter in a telephone interview, also questioned the rationale for the test fee.
“My brother has been told to pay N30,000 before the school resumes for the COVID-19 test. The test is supposed to be free if truly the government is concerned about the people,” the parent who gave her name as Ms Akinkuebi said.
She said the government was also not making necessary preparations for social distancing and other safety protocols in schools.
Reacting to the grouse, however, the Special Assistant to the Governor on public communication, Remmy Hassan, said private schools students were meant to pay N25,000 because the government had subsidised the cost by 50 per cent.
“The COVID-19 test costs about N50,000. For the students in public schools, it is free but because the private schools could not provide us with the total number of their students, we could only subsidise the cost by 50 per cent.
“The reagents for the test have to be made available by NDDC because the students need to resume in the next 48 hours. All these are very important and it will cost money. That was why we decided that private schools should pay half of the cost since they are profit makers,” he said. After much pressure, the Ogun State government rescinded its decision on the fee, saying the government would find a way around it.
Many parents who spoke with this newspaper condemned the insensitivity of some schools who despite the harsh economic situation in the country, and in view of the fact that they have not been working for close to four months, are still being asked to pay an exorbitant fee.
Mohammed Abdullahi Jimoh, a parent said “it is open robbery. My daughter paid N50,000 for SSCE registration, yet he is being asked to pay N3000 for coaching. Honestly, I don’t understand.”