Some private schools in the country are charging above the approved registration fee for this year's Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
Even though the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) have approved GH˘8.55 as registration fee, some of the schools are charging as much as GH˘107.
The phenomenon is particularly widespread among private schools in Accra which hide behind cost incurred during the registration process to add a string of charges to the approved fee.
While some public schools charge between GH˘12 and GH˘15, some private schools collect between GH˘30 and GH˘110.
For example, at the Holy Family Roman Catholic School at Mataheko, BECE candidates are paying GH˘107; Queens Model School at Kotobabi, GH˘60; EP Church School, Mamprobi, GH˘30; Green Pasture Preparatory School at Awoshie, GH˘50; King Edward School at Gbawe, GH˘50; Emmanuel Methodist Preparatory School at Anyah, GH˘40, Holy Cross School at Tetegu near Weija, GH˘30.
A letter dated October 2011 and signed by the acting Director-General of the GES, Mrs Benedicta Naana Biney, noted that "the fee approved by the Ministry of Education is GH˘28.50.
The government will pay a subsidy of GH˘19.95. This amount represents 70 per cent of the approved fee of GH˘28.50".
"Parents are, therefore, requested to pay GH˘8.55 per candidate as entry fee for the examination, it further stated.
It noted that "any additional charges, such as cost of photograph, should be negotiated with parents/guardians".
The letter cautioned that "under no circumstance should heads of schools go on their own way to prescribe charges for parents to pay".
But this is not the case in many schools.
In some of the schools, the authorities charge GH˘10 for passport-sized photographs and GH˘5 for online registration.
While some of the school heads declined to comment, the Headmaster of Queens Model School, Mr Dome Carlson, told the Daily Graphic that other fees, including mock examinations, passport pictures, high school selection forms and group photographs, were added to the registration fee.
We do not want to burden parents by asking them money every now and then for those items and so we agree with parents to put it in one lump sum which they pay at once.
The private schools have always done better than the public ones because of the level of preparation we give our students through mock examinations and other academic exercises. For instance, in our school we write about four mock examinations before the BECE examinations, he explained.
He discredited allegations that the schools were using the BECE registration exercise to unduly burden parents when there was a clear directive from the GES on what to charge.
Mr Carlsons position was trumpeted by the President of the Ghana National Association of Private Schools, Mr Godwin Sowah, who told the Daily Graphic that the private schools were justified in charging the said fees because other things go into ensuring that the students are comfortable when writing the examination.
The GES, he stated, could not impose fees on the schools because preparing the students for the examination went beyond just registration.
In some of the schools, transport fares and even lunch are made part of the fee because the schools are not allowed to write the examination on their premises and the students have to be fed as well, he stated.
All those things are components of the registration fee and the schools have the right to add them, he stated.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the acting Deputy Director-General of the GES in charge of Basic Education, Mr Stephen Adu, urged parents to report all schools that were charging illegal fees to the metropolitan/municipal and district directors of education to ensure that the appropriate action was taken against those schools.
He noted that even though the schools had the right to organise mock BECE examinations for their students, those programmes should not be added to the registration fee.
"It is illegal for any school to make mock examination fee part of the registration fee. What we are encouraging is for the schools to involve parents in their decision making on such issues," he explained.
Mock examinations, he stated, were very necessary to prepare the candidates for the examination.
He said in situations where mock examination fee was made part of the registration fee, parents should insist on the breakdown of fees to ensure that school heads did not take advantage of the situation.
"We are not in favour of schools charging high fees, but it is equally important that parents assist the schools to prepare the candidates to pass the examination, he said.
Source: Daily Graphic
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