Threaten to take school administration to court
The administration of the John Christian International School System (JCISS) has charged each of the 26 graduating 12th graders US$220 as fee for the pending exercise. The JCISS is located in Virginia, outside Monrovia.
The situation, which has already caused an uproar among poverty-stricken parents, came against the backdrop of complaints the parents raised last year when the Monrovia National Office of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) charged US$65 per 12th grader to sit the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
As a result of the "high fee", a group of parents has threatened to take the school's administration to court, if authorities of the Ministry of Education (MoE) did not abort the JCISS' "exploitation" amid the prevailing economic crisis.
The parents, some of them now aggrieved, have further accused the JCISS' administration of extortion, deception, and of running a criminal syndicate. Therefore, they have vowed to resist the payment through the court if the MoE fails to bring the matter to a logical conclusion.
JCISS proprietor, only identified as Pastor Wontaa, confirmed charging each graduating student US$220, but said the money will be used sparsely for activities covering the school's entire 3rd exercises.
"The collection of the money has been our school's tradition since two graduations ago, so why are some parents complaining to newspapers when they agreed on the additional US$20 to the US$200 each graduate used to pay," Wontaa rhetorically questioned via a mobile phone interview yesterday.
Aaron Dahn, one of several aggrieved parents leading the fight to abort the huge money collection for the school's graduation exercise, informed reporters that their patience has run out, and now it is time for them to take concrete actions that would compel the JCISS' administration to rethink their decision.
"The JCISS is charging us US$220 just for high school graduation program. We believe that this amount is too much for us," Dahn said.
He added, "Under the MoE's regulation governing school administrations, any extra fees other than the regular tuition should have been discussed with parents in order to derive a compromise. So the collection of US$220 is against the rules governing school administration, and therefore, we will not pay it."
Instead, he said, "we have called on MoE's authorities to ensure that the JCISS stops extorting money from the parents, because it is totally wrong." However, Pastor Wontaa said the US$220 covers two days of graduation activities on campus, including hall rental fee, pre-graduation dinner for the graduates and their parents as well as each of the 11th graders and their invitees.
According to him, 16 of the graduates have already paid, while the rest of them have agreed to also pay. "It is from this same US$220 we print souvenirs, including diploma covers, because as per the graduates' desire, we print collar T-shirts; pay for video recording of the entire convocation program, and a parent is entitled to make a photocopy of the video. We also purchase a personal gift package for each of the graduates," Wontaa said, defending his action.
With all that Wontaa has explained, the parents are of the opinion that if the MoE cannot handle the situation, they will seek redress through the court to ensure that no graduation takes place.
Given the nation's economic crisis, Dahn argued that the situation is unfair, "because no school is allowed to charge huge money for graduation exercises." By Dahn's calculation from the prevailing exchange rate of L$150 to US$1, US$220 is equivalent to L$33,000 per graduating senior; "so the money will amount to L$858,000 just for the graduation."
Meanwhile, MoE's Board of Inquiry has referred the outcome of the investigation it launched to the office of the Minister for further actions and recommendations.
The director of communications at the MoE, J. Maxime Bleetan, has confirmed the parents-JCISS' saga at the Ministry.