An Enugu State High Court has issued an interlocutory injunction stopping the state Ministry of Education from imposing, demanding or collecting fees for basic education examinations in the state.The examinations include, Common Entrance Examination, First School Leaving Certificate Examination, State Uniform Examinations and the Basic Education Certificate Examination.
The presiding judge of Udenu Judicial Division, Justice C.C Ani while granting the prayers of the applicants on June 21 ruled that the state should cease from further imposition, demand, collection by force or extortion of various sums of money from primary 1 to JSS 3 classes in all public and private schools in the state pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The plaintiff, Proprietors Association of Private Schools (PAPS) through its counsel, Barr JMCC Ogbuka had in the main suit, 0B/22/2022, challenged the legality of the collection of the fees by the state government.Ogbuka argued that imposition, demand and extortion of various sums of money from basic education class pupils in the state for any of the mentioned examinations is not only unauthorised by any law in the state and therefore illegal, but also 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.
He argued that 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.
The President of Proprietors Association of Private Schools (PAPS) Pastor Ejiofor Godwin (PhD) in an interview described the order as justice for parents and school proprietors who are unjustly forced to part with their hard earned money.He explained that: “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 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 and SSCE or WAEC. 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 N650 per child. They also collect the sum of N3000 per pupil for the common entrance examination and the First School Leaving Certificate Examination respectively and N6000 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. He also said that proprietors of private schools, after paying for the fee for the Uniform Exam also spend more money in making photocopies of the question papers and in 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 not introduced for evaluation, 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 write 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 three. This makes the FSLC examination written in primary six unnecessary and a waste of money and time.Godwin further explained that, “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”.” PAPS went to court as a last resort after the association has appealed to the ministry of education, through the Honourable Commissioner of education, to abolish the State Uniform Exam and reduce the fees for both Common Entrance and FSLC, without any response.
As law abiding citizens, we are not in court to fight the government as some have interpreted our action, but to establish what the law says on these matters and and abide by it since there is supremacy of the law in a democratic system which Nigeria is currently practising”