Parents and stakeholders in the education sector have expressed concern over the disparity in fees demanded by states and school owners for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and the National Examination Council (NECO) senior school examinations.
According to investigations, public and private schools in the country charge different fees for the terminal examinations for students in senior secondary schools.
Acting Head, Public Relations, West African Examination Council (WAEC), Damien Ojijeogu, told Daily Independent that that “the registration fee for both private and school examinations are the same: N13,950”.
But in many private schools across the country, school owners charge each candidate as much as N70,000 to N80,000 for the same examination, which they refer to as the examination package.
Schools belonging to the government in the 36 states also charge above the stipulated and official fee of N13,950 paid to WAEC annually.
However, states that are currently paying for the two examinations do so in circumstances that are shrouded in secrecy.
The figures allegedly announced as payment for the terminal examinations have remained a source of concern to stakeholders.
Report from Enugu State revealed that federal, state, and private schools are involved in the fleecing of parents and guardians of students in SSS3.
According to findings, students in federal schools in the state are charged N30,000 for both examinations, while schools belonging to Enugu State government collect N45,000 for WAEC and NECO.
Fees charged by private schools are as from N70,000 for both examinations.
In Ondo State, the government picks the bill while parents are charged N50,000 and N35,000 for WAEC and NECO, respectively.
In Yobe State, the government picks the bills for both examinations, while private schools charge N20,000 for WAEC and N18,000 for the NECO exam.
Besides, the Taraba State Ministry of Education charges candidates N14,000 for WASSCE and N16,000 for NECO.
Private school operators in the state fleece parents as they charge N25,000 and N30,000, respectively, for the examination, apart from the tuition fees.
Reports from Ogun State said the government charges N13, 950 per candidate for WASSCE, while private schools charge N40,000 and N35,000 for both WASSCE and NECO exams.
Recall that the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had at the end of a Federal Executive Council (FEC) on November 29, 2018, announced the council’s decision to slash the examination fee charged by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) from N5,000 to N3,500.
Similarly, the National Examination Council (NECO) for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) fee was reduced to N9,850 from N11,350.
The cost of the Basic Education Certificate handled by NECO was also reduced from N5,000 to N4,000.
A parent, Edwin Aina, in a chat with Daily Independent, appealed for government intervention because of the economic hardship in the country.
Aina lamented that the excessive fees charged for both WAEC and NECO by private school owners were exclusive of the cut-throat tuition parents are forced to pay.
He said: “In my opinion, though WAEC is an international examination organisation, I insist the government also intervene and bring sanity into the system.
“Amazingly, Nigerians are paying different fees for the same examinations in all the states of the federation, what a country!”
However, a private school operator, who spoke anonymously, said school owners should not be blamed for charging fees above the usual.
According to him, the fees include administrative charges, payment to officials of the Ministry of Education per candidate, registration and capturing of candidates, payment to invigilators, the assemblage of science laboratory equipment for science students practical, payment for special camping periods and other sundry costs.
Reacting to the development, the National Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), a non-governmental organisation, Hassan Taiwo-Soweto, described the excessive fees as outrageous.
“The outrageous cost of examinations is one of the indications of the insidious practice of commercialisation and exploitation going on in both public and private schools to the detriment of the working class and poor parents.
“On the one hand, this practice often threatens the integrity of the examination as the outrageous amount charged is sometimes to compromise the tests through the staging of special centres, payment for leakage of exam questions and cheating.
“On the other side, this practice forces many bright and capable students to drop out because of the inability to afford the outrageous cost,” he said.
He reiterated the advocacy of the group for quality free education and access to all, adding that where examination fees are fixed at such an outrageous rate, the objective of affordable and accessible public education cannot stand.
He said: “The position of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is that education must be free and accessible to all.
“Therefore, it would be correct for the government to intervene to ensure that this corrupt practice of charging far more than the official fee for the examinations is stopped.”
He added: “However, we cannot fail to note that it is the historical failure of successive anti-poor capitalist governments and the abdication of their funding and monitoring responsibilities to public education that has allowed all these sharp practices to fester and thrive.
“Therefore, the best way to end all these problems is for the government to take the responsibility of funding public education more seriously.”
He called for the running of all schools based on democratic tenets that will involve elected representatives of students, teachers, and parents.
“If this kind of democratic arrangement is in place, then it will make it easier for students and parents to expose and oppose any attempt to exploit them,” he stated.
Femi Subhai, a public commentator, said the practice that had been going on for several years had made a mockery of the country before the international community.
“It is sad that parents are paying different fees for two examinations.
“What you pay in Lagos is different from what is charged in Kano and Edo states.
“The government should intervene the way it did in the case of JAMB,” he said. (Daily Independent)