Ghana: Sacking Students From Exams Halls for Fees

All fingers, they say, are not equal. Economic levels amongst people vary. While some people are rich, others too are poor. A person's economic situation greatly influences the type of lifestyle and behaviour he/she lives.

The perception is that people who are rich are better organized than those who are poor. Using food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education as benchmarks, one can say a wealthy person is usually better off than the poor. For instance, mansions are built and occupied by rich individuals while the poor live in simple, traditional structures.

Within the education sector, there is also an economic inequality. A student from a wealthy background can be in a school which pays over GH¢500 as its fees per term as another from a humble background also battles with less than GH¢50 per term in another institution. Brilliant but needy students may find it tough to attend the so-called first-class schools unless being sponsored.

It is also a fact that facilities in 'low cost' schools can hardly be compared to those in 'expensive' institutions. Many lack teachers, good classroom blocks, laboratories, ICT equipment and libraries for churning out quality education to students. Even though some of these disadvantaged institutions are doing their best, there is no way they can perform like the well-resourced, expensive ones unless steps are taken to better their sordid state of affairs.

The Ghana Education Service (GES) and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) may have reason(s) for categorising the various public senior high schools in the country. We have Grade A, B, C and D schools. Junior high students make their choice of schools following this parameter.

But whatever reason it is, once a person is able to go through prescribed school duration, he/she is expected to crown it all with an examination usually conducted and supervised by the West African Examinations Council. The test administration is an annual event meaning anyone who misses a year's assessment would have to wait for the next year to be able to write.

Financial difficulties sometimes prevent students from being registered for examinations. The other day, I felt sorry for the 15 students of Kumasi High Technical School who were booted out of the Physics Theory examination hall for non-payment of school fees. The action was led by an Assistant Headmaster of the school, Mr. John Kumah.

Mr. Kumah said his action had the approval of the Ghana Education Service (GES) and that students in debts were not qualified to write the final examinations.

But that has been rubbished by the Ashanti Regional Public Relations Officer of GES, Mr. Owusu Agyemang saying "It is not Ghana Education Service's policy that students who have not paid their fees should be sacked from the examination hall."

The Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Education, Mr. Paul Krampa has also condemned the action informing that over the years, the issue has come up and that heads have been told to collect fees from students before they write their external examinations using the Payment- by-Installment System.

He emphasises, "If you deny a final-year student from writing his/her final examination, it means you are jeopardising the person's future. Heads should not wait till the last minute before demanding the payment of fees."

However, listening to the plea of the Conference of Heads of Assisted Senior High Schools (CHASS), it appears this issue of non-payment of fees by final year students is a hydra-headed one. To them, complaints by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament over the indebtedness of students to schools demand that they collect all fees owed by students before they leave school.

CHASS President Samuel Ofori-Adjei has observed that once students know they have been registered for the WASSCE, some of them would stop attending classes and appear at the last minute to write their final examinations making fees collection very difficult. He adds that the ability of students to access results on the Internet also compounds the problem.

As it stands now, it is clear that no concrete, workable method is yet available for use in retrieving fees from students. No wonder www.graphic.com.gh reports that some heads have also adopted the strategy of asking students who owe fees to come out of examination halls for 25 minutes before the maximum period of 30 minutes allowed for students to report to examination halls after the commencement of any examination, adding, "Once 25 minutes of your (student's) time is wasted, next time when you are coming to write the examination you will bring your fees."

I think the earlier parents, school heads, GES and other stakeholders come together to agree on a pragmatic policy in tackling this problem of fees collection, the better it will be for us all.

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