By Bridget Ikyado

Benue State Government has directed all secondary schools in the state to stop increment of school fees without the approval of the state Education Quality Assurance Agency.

It also warned to take punitive action against any school that forced students to pay all three terms school fees at once.

The government further said that any school that collects more than N5,000 as service charge for WAEC and NECO would face sanctions.

The directive followed a protest at Excel Grace Academy, Akaajime in Gboko on Tuesday by SS3 students barred by the school from sitting for examinations on the pretext that they had not paid their third term school fees.

The Director General of the agency, Dr. Terna Francis, who issued the directive, said that the agency would not allow school proprietors to jeopardize the efforts of the government in reducing unnecessary burdens on parents.

“On no account should Proprietors/Principals of Private and Public Schools, respectively, insist on the payment of three terms’ school fees at the beginning of the session or at any point; whether for examination classes or any other classes at all.

“The administration of Governor Hyacinth Alia is making efforts to put smiles on the faces of Benue state residents and would not tolerate any action that will jeopardize such efforts and place unnecessary burden on parents who are already overwhelmed with so many other responsibilities.

“All Basic and Post-Basic Schools in the state must constitute Parents-Teachers Association (PTAs) and School Based Management Committees (SBMCs) before the end of this Term.

“All schools must stick to the approved rate of N5,000 handling charges for WAEC and NECO, respectively. Any collection in excess of this will be suspected to be for examination malpractice.

“Proprietors of Private Schools are to note that before they increase school fees, they must write to the DG, Benue State Education Quality Assurance Agency, stating reasons for the additions with an attachment of minutes of PTA meetings where the said decision was arrived at.”

Dr Francis advised proprietors of various institutions, and stakeholders in the education sector to avail themselves of the periodic meetings BEQA will be organizing to enlighten them on government policies in the sector.

On the protest by students of Excel Grace Academy, Terna said that investigation by the agency had established that the SS3 students have been denied the right to education on the basis that they had not paid 3rd Term School Fees.

“As a background to this, at the beginning of the1st Term 2023/2024 session, students of the examination class were asked to pay for 1st & 2nd Terms which they obliged. Upon resumption this term, they were asked to pay school fees ahead of 3rd Term as well as N75,000 for WAEC & NECO.

“As such, those who were unable to meet up with this demand were denied access into the school. This situation resulted in serious protests, followed by chaos and pandemonium.”

The D-G said acting on the agency’s mandate, which empowers her to investigate all matters affecting learners, parents, staff and management of educational institutions below tertiary level, on Wednesday led a team, comprising of the Monitoring and Quality Regulation Officer, Area Education Officer Gboko, as well as six Evaluators to investigate the matter.

“The investigation team established the authenticity of the claims made by said parents and also established among other things that the school operates an autocratic system where the PTA has been abolished leaving the Proprietor to operate without consultation and internal checks.

“It was also discovered that the school is collecting exorbitant handling charges for WAEC and NECO, against the rate of N5,000 approved by the Examination Bodies.”

He said that the action of the school was inimical to the delivery of qualitative education as being pursued by the administration of Governor Hyacinth Alia.

“The Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Education and Knowledge Management has been adequately briefed on the matter and further investigation is being carried out for further action on Excel Grace Academy and other schools doing the same thing,” the director general said.

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