General News of Thursday, 29 January 2015
Source: Graphic Online
Anger is welling among some parents at Otinibi in the La Nkwantanang-Madina municipality near Accra over what they described as the high fees being charged by the Otinibi Basic School for the registration of pupils for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
The parents contend that the fees were far beyond what the Ghana Education Service (GES) has approved.
Although the GES and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) have approved GH¢17.40 as the registration fees, the Otinibi Basic School is alleged to be charging GH¢150.
While the head teacher of the school, Ms Grace Ninsaw, insisted that the extra amount was to enable the school to prepare its pupils adequately for the examination by way of writing six mock examinations, some of the parents were of the view that the fees were outrageous and not affordable.
The hike in the BECE registration fee is a practice for which private schools are notorious, but it appears public schools also indulge in the it.
“The fee is too high. How does the school expect us to pay such an amount for the BECE? What will we be paying to senior high schools?” an angry parent asked.
Interestingly, while the parents insisted that they had paid GH¢150, Mrs Ninsaw told the Daily Graphic in a telephone conversation that the school was collecting GH¢100 as registration fee.
When the Daily Graphic visited the school, however, the headmistress said the fee was GH¢130, with the extra GH¢30 being charged for extra classes.
When asked whether she issued receipts for the fees, she replied in the negative.
Interestingly, other schools within the catchment area — the Danfa Methodist Junior High School and the St Andrew’s Junior High School at Madina, both public schools — are collecting GH¢80 and GH¢70, respectively, as BECE registration fee.
A parent who spoke on condition of anonymity said the situation had compelled some children to abandon the classroom to do menial jobs to raise enough money for the registration.
While admitting that the District Education Office had asked the school to charge a little over GH¢32, the headteacher said the cost of printing examination materials was high and given the number of mock examinations the pupils would write before the main exams in June, the fees were fair.
She also said the parent/teacher association (PTA) of the school agreed at a meeting last term that to adequately prepare the pupils, the school would organise two internal mock examinations and participate in four external mock examinations, including one at the district level.
Asked if BECE candidates who could not afford the GH¢100 but had GH¢30 for registration would be allowed to register, Ms Ninsaw did not give a definite answer but said the school had, in the past, registered some of its pupils on compassionate grounds.
“Not all the children have parents. Some live with their guardians who do not come to PTA meetings. They are those who accuse us of charging high fees,” she said.
District director orders audit of fees
When contacted, the La Nkwantanang-Madina District Director of Education, Ms Elizabeth Oduro-Mensah, condemned the practice and said the schools had been asked to charge GH¢32.40.
According to a breakdown of the fee for each student, WAEC will receive GH¢17.40; the administrative work that goes into registering the pupils will take GH¢8, while passport pictures will cost GH¢5, with the remaining 70Gp serving as the cost of the food and transport needs of nurses who will be stationed at the examination centres.
She also said the district would organise a baseline examination next month to determine the preparedness of the students, at a cost of GH¢7.
“This examination is written like the BECE. We have approval from the GES and stakeholders in education in the district. Teachers are moved from one school to another to invigilate the baseline examination,” she explained.
Ms Oduro-Mensah, who immediately called the headmistress to demand answers, said she had directed an auditor to audit the money collected from parents as registration fees and have the excess refunded.
That aside, she said, Ms Ninsaw would face a disciplinary committee to explain her action and possibly face sanctions.
The GES guidelines to schools insist that “any additional charges, such as cost of photograph, should be negotiated with parents/guardians”.
It cautions that “under no circumstance should heads of schools go on their own way to prescribe charges for parents to pay”.