Exam Charges: Why Parents Must Engage Schools before Enrolment​

Exam Charges: Why Parents Must Engage Schools before Enrolment​

With the inflated West African Senior School Certificate Examination registration fee charged by private schools, as against the N18,000 mandated by the West African Examinations Council, Funmi Ogundare writes on why parents must engage the school on registration charges and what they are putting in place​ before enrolling​ their children for the exam

Mrs Sola Adediran is the parent of a student planning to sit for the 2023​ West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). She was given a bill of N350,000 as a tuition fee for the second term before​ schools vacated for the Christmas and New Year holidays. As part of this bill, she would have to pay N110,000 for WASSCE for her son against the N18,000 charged for each student by the council.​

Adediran, a teacher, said she doesn’t have a choice but to pay the outrageous N110,000 registration, but due to the inflation rate,​ she will have to pay in instalments.

​”If the school says we should pay N110,000, what can parents do? What is the ministry of education doing about it? “

She said she is unaware of any special service her son’s school is rendering to justify such an exorbitant fee, adding that the fee also includes paying for Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) conducted by National Examinations Council (NECO).​

Another parent, Mrs Adeola Setonji, confirmed to THISDAY that she would be paying N250,000 as a tuition fee for her son, who attends Redeemers School, Festac, adding that the WASSCE registration fee is N34,000.

She, however, expressed shock over the high registration fee charged by schools and called for prayers for the country’s leadership.

Adediran and Setonji are not alone in this. Many parents/guardians will be at the mercy of school owners who expect them to pay exorbitant WASSCE fees ranging from N34,000 to N110, 000, as against the usual N18,000 rate charged WAEC, as primary and secondary schools across the country, resume for the second term of the 2022/2023 academic session.

During the announcement of the release of the 2021 May/June diet of the SSCE, WAEC announced an increment of the registration fee for its examination from N13,950 to N18,000, which is still far below the current fee charged by private schools.

According to the council, the increment, which amounted to about 29 per cent, begins in the 2022 SSCE.

The Head of the WAEC Nigeria Office, Mr Patrick Areghan, who made the announcement, attributed the development to the coronavirus pandemic, rising inflation rates and insecurity.

“Owing to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought the global economy to its knees, the unabating spiralling inflation in the country as can be seen in the general cost of doing business and the multiplier effect of the unabating insecurity in the country, which have consequential effects on the cost of our operations, it is no longer possible to continue to provide services with the current fee of N13,950 per candidate,” stated Areghan.​

He added, “Furthermore, our ad hoc workers, supervisors, examiners, checkers, item writers and, indeed, all examination functionaries, have been agitating for improved remunerations.”

He pointed out that the council had received approval from the appropriate quarters with effect from the WASSCE for school candidates, 2022, to charge N18,000 per candidate, adding that all school principals must collect the same fee per candidate for registration.

He said a part of the new fee had been dedicated to enhancing the remunerations for the various examination functionaries and that​ its governing​ board has graciously approved the remunerations, which will come into effect from the WASSCE for school candidates in 2022.

He, however, said any amount beyond N18,000 charged by any school “will not be to our consent or knowledge and will definitely not come to the purse of the West African Examinations Council.”

Despite the instructions, private schools in the country are still charging above the stipulated amount.

The acting​ Head of Public Affairs of the council, Moyosola Adeyegbe, expressed concern about the exorbitant​ registration fee parents are made to pay, saying that some schools charge as high as N90,000.

In a telephone conversation with THISDAY, she said, “schools charge candidates more than what they should be charged, we really don’t have power on that, but what the government approves as WAEC charges is N18,000 and N500 bank charges for private candidates. We are aware that schools charge as high as N90,000.”​

The council had in October launched the digital certificate platform for candidates to generate their certificates online and to recover burnt, lost and damaged certificates, as Adeyegbe expressed regret that school owners had protested against the initiative.

“The digital certificate that we did, the schools protested and were angry with us that we want to take from them because candidates will not come back to school to pick the hard copy of their certificates since they can access it and share it wherever they want,” she stated

Adeyegbe also expressed concern that the calculators given at the point of registration for students are meant to be free, but the schools charge students for them.

“The calculators that we gave when schools were registering for the exams were given for free, but they go back to their schools and sell to the students. We have heard complaints and gone to the schools that it should not be so,” Adeyegbe explained. “We have insisted that candidates should know that the calculator with bold inscription,’ Not for sale’, is for them and should not be sold. Even after writing the examination, they don’t even allow the students have access to the certificate issued, until they pay some certain amount of money which is meant to be given free to the students.”​

She also mentioned that the schools​ “are using WASSCE exam as an opportunity to make money and exploit candidates, that is why you hear of some students complaining that they are not able to pay their fees. It is not because they can’t pay, but because of the amount the school is charging.”

THISDAY checks reveal that schools organise extra lessons to prepare their students for the exams, pay those that will invigilate during the exam and ensure security, equip the laboratories and even pay the drivers that will take the students home after late classes, fueling generators and vehicles, among other services, to justify their reason for charging high registration fees for WASSCE.

A school owner and Proprietor of Omolewu Academy Bucksman Height, Okeho, Oyo State, Mr Segun Omolewu, told THISDAY that the management of schools must put in place many things in preparation for the examination, which is why they inflate the registration fee so it can be spread across the services they would be offering.

Omolewu stated “any standard school must have well-equipped laboratories for WASSCE and experienced teachers that will teach the subjects and take students in practicals. The supervisors and invigilators come with a cost. In order to ensure that the teachers are comfortable, I give them money for transportation and feeding.”

The proprietor added, “We will also need to tighten up security during the conduct of the exam by paying special security guards to monitor the environment. All officials must be very comfortable.”

The President of the National Association of Private Schools (NAPPS), Chief Yomi Otubela, told THISDAY that different variables come into play on the registration fees charged by private schools, adding that some schools also register their students for more than one exam within the year.​

“With high inflation rate, the WAEC practical material that we used to buy at a certain rate, is no longer the same. The maintenance of the laboratory and other special room used for preparing the students for the exam get dilapidated over time,” said Otubela. “During the course of the exam, there might be need to supply power to the exam hall and ensure we supply diesel to the generator. This comes with a cost. Some schools also work extra by organising extra mural classes for the students. While some schools don’t charge anything for development fee, they charge it alongside for the preparation for the exam because it is not part of the school fees.”

He, however, stressed the need for parents to engage the school before enrolling​ their children for the exams by asking them what the charges are meant for and other variables they are putting in place.

“If It favours the parents, they can continue, but if it doesn’t favour them, then they can look for alternatives”, he said, adding that the schools should also enumerate what they are charging for rather than lumping everything together.

Asked how children from less privileged backgrounds will be able to pay outrageous fees, Otubela said, “we have many schools under our association that grant indigent children scholarship from beginning to the end and even pay for their WAEC. That we have evidence of. As many of these schools submit their scholarship records to us.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Edumark Consult, Mrs Yinka Ogunde, said the operating costs of private schools in the country has increased astronomically and that not many of them may be able to pass them on to school fees.​

“This is a very delicate matter and we cannot run away from the fact that private schools are struggling at the moment,” she said.​

Justifying the high WASSCE fees, she pointed out that the school may need to put a process around the fee payment, such as settling teachers that will check the details and ensuring that all forms are well filled, amongst other services.

“All the extras will need time and resources to do and the candidates may be be called upon to bear this. I think that this also goes into the structure of a lot of our private schools. Some schools can leave WAEC fees as N18,000 and choose to have an exam management fee or so. This will clearly show the extra work that the school will need to do is being compensated,” Ogunde added.

She stressed the need for collaboration among stakeholders to restructure the way the education sector is run.

A parent, Mrs Ngozika Amadi, stated that the authorities should investigate private schools regarding charges for JSS three and SS three, adding that policy should be put in place to harmonize the fees outside the compulsory extra lesson and outrageous fees they charge.

Head of Public Affairs Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Education, Mr Ganiu Lawal, said the state, since last year,​ has been paying N18,000 as registration fee for students who sit for the exam, adding that the ministry does not determine how much private schools charge.​

Asked if the state is to regulate the activities of private schools, he said, “We regulate their activities, but we don’t regulate cost because each school charges based on the perceived facility and whatever service they are offering” and that “there are different levels of private schools. You have those that charge a million naira and those that charge between N20,000 and N30,000. What we regulate is the curriculum, safety and every other thing that has to do with the quality of education, but if you say we regulate cost, that means we have to tell every school to charge the same amount for every service they are providing to the students they have.”

He, however, expressed concern about the activities of private schools, saying that parents are aware of some of the irregularities happening behind the scene.

“Why are the schools charging as high as N110,000? For what purpose? The parents should call out those schools and let WAEC intervene, and let us know whether there is an amount they are paying to the council that is different from what we paid, ” Lawal said.

When contacted, the Director of Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Benjamin Bem Goong, attributed the outrageous fee charged by private schools to organised examination malpractices saying that if one is to look at the performance of students in that exam, almost everyone will come out in flying colours.

“Some of these schools get involved in exam malpractices and collect certain amount of money from these students with a view to helping them through invigilators to cheat. What can government do about that?” stated Goong. “If you check the result of the school and their level of passes, it will connote a level of cheating. Those involved are the private schools. There is very little his ministry can do about.”

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