Parents of private school pupils across Ogun State, protested against a proposed N25,000 COVID-19 test fee being charged by the state government.
The fee had been introduced after the state government insisted that returning final year students in boarding schools must undergo COVID-19 tests before moving back in. The government insisted that the returning students must test negative to the virus.
When most parents turned up with their children for the compulsory testing at the MTR Specialist Hospital, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, they were asked to pay N25,000 per child. This angered the parents who proceeded to block the Hospital entrance while health officials ran away from the premises.
The parents decried the development through the vice chairman of the Parents Teachers Association of a private school, Dr. Kehinde Sanwo who acted as the spokesperson for the protesting parents.
Dr. Kehinde accused the Ogun state government of being bias against students in private schools forgetting that their parents are tax payers too. She alleged that public school students had gotten the test for free while private school pupils were being asked to pay for the same test.
She said, “The parents here are good citizens of Ogun State and we are taxpayers. When we arrived we were told to pay N25,000. Whereas, some people who arrived earlier paid nothing. So, we don’t know where the decision came from. Some of us have more than two children.
“We need the governor to come to our rescue; we think it (test) should be free. We were told the directive was from the Commissioner for Health.”
In its response however, the state government justified imposing the levy saying it was agreed between the parents, private school owners and government representatives when the guidelines for re-opening of schools were being developed.
According to a statement by the special adviser to the governor on Basic and Secondary Education, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo, the Ogun state government decided to pay for COVID-19 tests for students in public schools while it negotiated a discount for private students with health care service providers.
“Ogun State is arguably the state with the highest number of schools (public and private) operating boarding facilities in the country with students’ population drawn from far and wide. In view of this and the need to avoid community transmission of the COVID-19 among our children in the boarding facilities and invariably the state as a whole, additional requirements for opening of boarding facilities in all the secondary schools in the state were agreed to.
“A key additional requirement is presentation of certificate of negative COVID-19 test before a student is admitted to the boarding facility in both public and private schools in the state. The government will bear the full costs of the COVID-19 test for all the boarding SS3 students in the state-owned public schools.
“All private school owners are also expected to ensure that all their boarding students are certified COVID-19 negative before being admitted into boarding facilities. To further assist the private schools, Ogun State Government has negotiated a huge discount in the cost of COVID-19 test with some health care service providers
“However, private school owners and parents are free to engage any other service provider of their choice provided that the service provider is certified by the NCDC as COVID-19 test service provider in their areas.”