MORE negative reactions have continued to trail the N10,000 fees charged by the Lagos State government for parents who wish to register their child(ren) into the state’s junior secondary model colleges and upgraded colleges, saying the amount is tantamount to pricing education out of the reach of the poor.
Pointing out that two versions of the screening test – CBT and pencil-based – would be adopted for the 2015/2016 entrance examinations into junior secondary model colleges and upgraded colleges, the State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, said parents and guardians are expected to pay N10,000 to designated banks before the candidates can be registered through a customised compact disc issued by the State Examination Board.
Describing as ‘scary’ the educational policies of the Lagos State government, the President, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, MSSN, Kaamil Kalejaiye, said the burden of bringing quality or change in the education system should not be borne by parents.
Kalejaiye said “Lagos State is at it again with their anti-masses educational policy. Why must parents always pay for things that government should do. It seems the government has misplaced its priority and it is absurd that the state government is asking parents to pay because it is not parents’ responsibility to sponsor educational innovation, unless if it is voluntary.
“Why is Lagos’ government always running from its responsibilities when it comes to education? The fear is that this is just the beginning as government may soon begin to ‘indirectly’ ask parents with children in public schools to start paying ‘token’ school fees. The high fee regimes in the state institutions of higher learning have made the educational policies of LASG scary and mostly anti-masses.”
Calling on concerned stakeholders to intervene, the MSSN President said the high fees would not have risen if the state government had judiciously spent the $90 million World Bank education loan.
Also, the Education Rights Campaign, ERC, through its National Coordinator, Mr. Hassan Taiwo Soweto, has called for the immediately reversal of the said amount in the interest of the good people of the state.
Soweto said; “Public education should be a vital social responsibility. Given the glaring deficit in Nigeria’s school population, especially to the disadvantage of the girl-child, it is expected that government ensures that less of the cost of education is put on parents and guardians in order to promote enrolment.
“The fact that the cost of admission into model colleges and upgraded colleges in the state has always been high does not justify its acceptability. Public education can be truly free and affordable when such burdensome fees and charges are reversed. How can the state government claim it is implementing free education program when those who wish to progress into model colleges and upgraded colleges have to part with N10,000 in a country whose minimum wage is not more than N18,000 per month?
“This high admission fee can bring hardship to and force parents to make tough choices including considering other schools even when the model colleges and upgraded colleges are their preferred choice.
“Any policy that allows a child’s future to be bartered on the basis of ability to afford an admission fee is inhuman and not fit for any society.”
Questioning the state government’s decision to make entrance into secondary schools more expensive than that of tertiary institutions, the spokesperson, West zone of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Olatinwo Jeremiah; “The proposed N10,000 test fee is enough to pay for UTME and Post-UTME test fees combined. Though we acknowledge the reforms in the education sector in the state, but NANS frowns at the exorbitant charge being proposed for entrance fees into junior secondary schools in the state.”
Parents were not left out as they also called for the reversal of the high fees.
For Mrs. Joy Obika, whose two children are in a public school while hoping to enrol the third, said “It does not make sense, why is it then free education if we are being extorted from the very beginning. This is another scheme to rip of the masses, and I would rather patronise the affordable private schools than be ripped off.”
Saying he has never trusted the free education policy of government, a parent, Mr. Wale Ojo, said “I have never trusted the free education policy of government because we still pay for the education through buying of books, paying entrance exam fees and all sorts of funny charges. It is not fair at all because if parents that send their children to public schools had the financial wherewithal, they would enrol their wards in private schools.”
But Mr. Celestine Terna, whose child is in one of the state secondary schools, said “The amount is a small price to pay since the entire six years of the child’s education would be free. Why will I not pay it as a small contribution to my child’s academic welfare? I believe it is the cost of running those exams that has caused the need for fees. You know the exams are for all comers and the materials could be an issue.”
Defending the N10,000 fees attached to the entrance examination, the Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Ministry of Education, Mr Jide Lawal, said the money was for administrative charges for external examinations and not for the pilot CBT as claimed by some people.
“Our attention has been drawn to the objections of both the Education Rights Campaign, ERC, and the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) to the amount charged for the screening test.
“We wish to state categorically that the payment of N10, 000 for the screening tests is not a new thing as that has always been the practice for the past years.
“Hence, one begins to question the motive behind the objections of the two groups.
“It is pertinent to point out that the fee cannot in any way bring hardships to parents as the screening tests into model college and upgraded colleges are for parents who wish to have their children and wards in boarding schools.”