Indications have emerged that pupils in public schools and technical colleges in Ogun State have resumed payment of the controversial Parents, Teachers Association (PTA) levies.
Government, however, said some leaders of the PTA in Ogun State were the brain behind Gov Dapo Abiodun’s decision to lift the ban placed on payment of levies in Ogun public primary and secondary schools as well as technical colleges.
Recalled that Gov Abiodun on September 21, ordered the suspension of a controversial N3,700 ‘donation’ reportedly introduced by the Parents/Teachers’ Association (PTA) for payment by pupils in all the state’s public secondary schools and technical colleges.
While suspending the fees at an Education Summit held in Abeokuta, Abiodun said: “I have been criticised in the media because of the fee. I did not introduce the N3,700 PTA levy. This fee predates this administration and our understanding is that the previous administration adopted it because it was a proposal that was accepted by parents and teachers.
“But, the truth is that as acceptable as it would have been; it kind of negates the principle of free education.
“We cannot be double speaking; we cannot be saying one thing and be doing something else. We must be seen as an administration that is accountable to the people just like our promises.
“I told my team to look critically into this issue and they brought it to me and I saw insurance, cap and others.
“I have told them to go and look at how we can make this work without having to charge anybody.
“The first step is to restore the running cost so that it does not look as if we are taking that and they will not have anything to run the schools. The running cost has been restored pending the time we look into the issue and find a lasting solution to it.
“The N3,700 has been suspended for now until the committee comes up with recommendations”.
The Governor, however, made a U-turn a few weeks after, when the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said in a circular that schools could collect PTA levies, but the PTA in any school or college must get the approval of the Ogun State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology before embarking on the collection of such levies.
This, the government said was in line with the PTA’s constitution, which is at liberty to donate in support of the government to provide or rehabilitate infrastructural facilities, employ and support PTA teachers, guards, develop sports etc.
Government, however, directed that no pupil should be discriminated against if his parents failed to pay the fee, which was termed ‘donation’.
It was gathered that many public primary and secondary schools across the state have since started collecting levies from their pupils.
According to reports from parents who spoke with our correspondent, some headteachers and principals are charging between N1,900 and above.
It was also gathered that some secondary schools charge pupils in JSS 1 N2,500 for seats.
Meanwhile, parents and guardians, most of whom were not aware of the fact that government has lifted the suspension placed on payment of PTA levies, have been lamenting; accusing the headteachers of corrupt practices.
It was gathered that parents living in Ogun-Oyo border communities in Odeda Local Government area of the state have resorted to enrolling their kids in schools owned by the Oyo State government following Gov Seyi Makinde’s abolition of all fees in Oyo State public primary and secondary schools.
Speaking with DAILY POST correspondent on phone, an official in the Ogun State Ministry of Education, Mrs Bamidele Makinde, said that Gov Abiodun stands on making education free in all primary and secondary schools as well as technical colleges in Ogun.
However, Makinde, who is authorised by government to answer questions on the issue, said some PTA leaders approached the Governor, asking him to allow payment of PTA levies across the state; giving this as the reason why payment of levies might have been back in Ogun public schools.
“Gov Abiodun still stands on making education free in public schools in the state. But some PTA leaders kept going to the governor that they want to be paying levies.
“When they kept disturbing the governor, he told them to go and hold a meeting so as to agree on what to pay.
“He told them to put their agreement on writing and forward it to him in a letter; stating what they want to be paying and what the money will be used for. So that government will look into it.” she stated.
Asked if schools have been writing to the Ministry of Education for approval before they start demanding fees from pupils, Makinde said she would not know.
“I don’t know if they have been getting approval for the collection of PTA levies, unless I asked those in charge of that duty,” she said.
A Vice Principal in one of the secondary schools in Abeokuta told our correspondent that education cannot be absolutely free in Ogun State.
The Vice Principal, who pleaded anonymity, maintained that government alone cannot fund education in the state; saying parents must pay something to support their children’s education.
He confirmed that government had given running cost to schools in the state; adding, however, that the money was not enough to cater for all expenses, especially payment of stipends to PTA teachers.