Unity schools

Federal Government Colleges across the country reopened for the 2016/17 session yesterday but some students who could not pay complete fees were turned back, Daily Trust reports.

Government had recently increased boarding fees and banned Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) levies in all the colleges, otherwise known as unity schools, amid complaints from parents.

The associations which hithertocharged between N2,500 and N65,000, were asked not to exceed N5,000 and seek clearance from the ministry of education to undertake developmental projects.

Parents were expected to pay a total sum of N78,000 in some colleges per student for the first term. The total charges for SSS 3 students in Federal Government College, Kwali, Abuja was N75,500 and included boarding (N15,000), textbooks deposit (N12,000), utility (N1,000), sports (N500), vocational subjects (N1,000), exams stationary (N500), club dues (N500), medical (N1,000), exercise books (N3,000), extra lesson (N2,000), website/e-result/ICT (3,000), insurance (N5,000 once per person), security (N1,000) and WASSCE/NECO (N30,000).

However, in Kwali, students who could not pay the complete fees were asked to return home. A parent of affected SSS 3 students, who would not want to be named, said her daughter was turned away because she could not pay for textbooks.

She said, “Her senior brother graduated last year and the textbooks he used were intact and the same with her own. My daughter has all the books because they are the same set of books that they use from SS1 to SS3. Moreover, her brother just graduated and passed his text books to her and we paid N63, 500. Yet they refused to admit her into the school unless we pay N12,000 for books.”
She also said all returning students were asked to pay for new uniforms even if they have them, while some were not given uniforms in the previous session even after payments.

“Some parents complained that their wards’ uniform (blazers and shoes) which were paid for since last year have not been given to them, so what is the guarantee that they will receive the next ones?” she asked.
She said students were told to pay insurance levies in spite of their temporary suspension. She also said each student was asked to pay N3, 000 as PTA levy.

In Federal Government Girls College, Bwari, students who could not pay N5,000 PTA fee were asked to leave, according to one parent. Students were also charged N500 as hostel levy after submitting hoes, rakes, brooms, disinfectants and detergents.

Officials in both colleges refused to talk to our reporters on the grounds that they were not allowed to make media comments and efforts to reach the Federal Ministry of Education were not successful. A text message sent to deputy director, press in the ministry, Mr. Ben Bem Goong, on the allegation was neither acknowledged nor replied.

At the Federal Government College, Kano, one of the senior teachers assigned to collect school fees said no student was sent home over fees.

Similarly, when contacted on the recent development, Chairman North west wing of National Association of Parents and Teachers of Federal Government Colleges (NAPTAFEGC) Alhaji Musa Ibrahim Umar said the association had forwarded its grievances on the increment of school fees to the relevant authorities.

Protest against fee hike continues
At other colleges, the protest over fee hike continued yesterday.
In Cross River, parents at Federal Government Girls Secondary School in Calabar protested the new school fees which took effect yesterday.

Madam Ursula Brownson, who works for Cross River Broadcasting Corporation, said “the new fees are very, very high and unacceptable.”
Another parent, Mr Aniediok Michael who brought his 12-year-old son said it was unclear if it was the federal government or the school management that ordered the increase in school fees.

In Ilorin, Kwara State, one parent said boarding fee which used to be N7, 000 was increased to N15,000.
“Ordinarily, we usually pay less that N40, 000 when they are resuming but now we paid N45, 000 which is not supposed to be. This is a unity school, a federal government school for that matter.”
At the Federal Government College, Gboko too, parents complained over the hike in school fees, urging the government to rescind the decision.

A parent, Mrs. Grace Anyebe, said: “As if the hike in fees was not enough, the federal government also wants to cancel the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) which is our mouthpiece but we have resisted that. I have already paid the PTA fee.”
Anyebe, whose daughter is expected to resume her new class as Junior Secondary School JSS 3, said the increase was ill-timed for many parents like her who had not been paid at their places of work for several months.

Another parent, Mr. Amos Abraham, said he had withdrawn one of his two children from the school to continue elsewhere because he could not pay fees.

“I don’t know what this country is turning into. The government no longer considers the plight of the low income earners who want to bequeath education to their children as their best legacy.”

Mrs. Bolanle, who has two children at FGC Malali in Kaduna, decried the recent increase in school fees. “I have two children in the school, one in SS 1 and the other in SS 3. We are not happy at all about the increment because the fee is too high. Before now, the boarding fee ranges from N7,500 to N 12,500 per term, but the total fee has now increased to over N60,000 including books, PTA etc. This means many parents may withdraw their children from the school.

“Some parents who managed to pay the school fees may not be able to buy text books for the children because times are hard and it is not about school fees alone, but also feeding and clothing among others,” she said.

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