An Enugu State High Court presided over by Justice C.C Ani has barred the Enugu State Ministry of Education from imposing or collecting fees for basic education examinations in the state.
The court, sitting at Udenu, gave the order while ruling on a motion for an interlocutory injunction sought by the Enugu State Proprietors Association of Private Schools (PAPS).
The plaintiff (PAPS) had, through its counsel, Mr JMCC Ogbuka, in a suit numbered 0B/22/2022, challenged the legality of the collection of the fees – “Common Entrance Examination, First School Leaving Certificate Examination, State Uniform Examinations and the Basic Education Certificate Examination.”
Ogbuka stated that imposing, demanding and extorting various sums of money from basic education class pupils in the state is illegal, and contrary to the trenchant provisions of the Compulsory Free Basic Education Act 2004 as well as the Child Rights Acts 2003 which are extant laws made by the National Assembly.
According to him, the Common Entrance Examination, the First School Leaving Certificate Examination and the State Uniform Examination ceased to enjoy the force of law with the introduction of the 9-3-4 system of education in place of the obsolete 6-3-3-4 system of education under the compulsory free Basic Education Policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria as provided under the UBEC Act 2004.
Justice Ani, ruling on the interlocutory injunction, ordered the state government to stop further imposition, demand, or collection by force or extortion of various sums of money from primary 1 to Junior Secondary School 3 classes in all public and private schools in the state pending the determination of the substantive suit.
In a reaction, the president of the Proprietors Association of Private Schools (PAPS), Dr Ejiofor Godwin, said, “Enugu State Ministry of Education, in 2019, introduced the Compulsory State Uniform Exam for all the private and public schools in addition to the Common Entrance and First School Leaving Certificate Examinations at a huge cost for each of them which most private school proprietors did not receive with open arms.
“To make the matter worse, the state Uniform Exam was made a condition for registering candidates for such national and external exams as BECE, NECO (National Examination Council) and SSCE (Senior School Certificate Examination) or WAEC (West African Examination Council). The Uniform Exam puts a lot of pressure, stress, suffering and financial loss on both parents and proprietors of private schools in Enugu State.
“For example, the exam was introduced with the payment of N300 per child but now costs N700 per child. They also collect the sum of N3,000 per pupil for the common entrance examination and the First School Leaving Certificate Examination respectively and N6,000 for the BECE exam.
“In addition, the Uniform Exam has never been used by the State Ministry of Education for the purpose of evaluation and promotion of pupils for which it was said to have been introduced because of no or late publication of the result of the exam.
“Proprietors of private schools, after paying the fee for the Uniform Exam, also spend more money on making photocopies of the question papers and uploading their candidates’ names with their photos to a portal owned by a group of people who make a lot of money from every transaction made on the portal.
“To prove that the uniform exam was introduced to make money from parents and proprietors of private schools, the Ministry of Education, Enugu State, compels proprietors who refuse to participate in the exam to pay the fees before they are allowed to register their candidates for any external exam in the state.
“Furthermore, with the introduction of the 9-3-4 system of universal basic education in replacement of the old 6-3-3-4 system, writing of Common Entrance and FSLC Examinations are no longer necessary and constitute a waste of money on the part of parents and unnecessary stress for the proprietors of schools.
“With this new system, basic education starts from basic one and terminates with basic nine in this order: primary 1-3 is lower basic, primary 4-6 is middle basic and JS 1-3 is upper basic. It is ridiculous for a child to take an entrance exam (Common Entrance) to enter into basic education he or she started in basic education one which he or she is to complete in basic education nine which is JS three.
“With this new system also, the first certificate a child should have now, is Basic Education Certificate which is issued after writing the Basic Education Certificate Exam in JS 3. This makes the FSLC examination written in primary six unnecessary and a waste of money and time.
“What pupils need as evidence that they attended a particular primary school is the school’s testimonial which can be given to those who are still in the old testament of primary school education.
“But as far as basic education policy is concerned, what we have now is basic education of nine years, senior secondary education of three years and university education of four years.”
The state commissioner for education, Uche Eze, a professor, had earlier said the measure was to check illegal schools in the state.