Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Scores of parents of children attending private schools in Ogun State, yesterday, protested government’s decision to charge the JSS 3 and SSS 3 students before testing them for COVID-19 ahead of their resumption tomorrow.
The parents, who had besieged the MTR Specialist Hospital, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, venue of the test, queried the rationale behind the levy which they described as not only exorbitant but uncalled for.
They demanded why the state government would impose such levy on students of private schools, while their counterparts in public schools were tested free of charge.
The parents further argued that COVID-19 test should not be made compulsory for students, since the state government had instructed all schools to make adequate provisions for testing of their students before they resume in their respective schools.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Vice Chairman, Parents Teachers Association (PTA), in one of the private schools, Kehinde Sanwo, flayed the state government for discriminating between students in public and private schools, saying they are all children of the state that should be treated equally.
“The parents here are good citizens of Ogun State and we are tax payers. When we arrived here this morning, 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 in the same or different private schools. This is, indeed, a disheartening development,” she said.
Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Olukayode Soyinka, while speaking with newsmen at the venue of the test, said he was not aware of the N25,000 COVID-19 test levy on private schools students.
Soyinka said the test, before now, had been free, explaining that he was just instructed by the Commissioner for Health, Tomi Coker, to make himself available at the venue to provide conducive environment for the students.
He said the test was in conjunction with a private laboratory, 54gene, under the public private partnership arrangement.
Meanwhile, the government has explained reason for the COVID-19 negative test certificates for students in terminal classes in secondary schools, especially those in boarding facilities, ahead of their resumption tomorrow.
The state government, in a statement by the Special Adviser to the governor, Basic and Secondary Education, Ronke Soyombo, yesterday, said the requirement for the test was based on the guidelines jointly developed and agreed by parents, private school owners, government representatives and other stakeholders.
Apparently reacting to the protest by the parents against the N25,000 COVID-19 test levy, yesterday, the government, said Ogun, which is arguably the state with the highest number of schools (public and private) operating boarding facilities in the country, needed to avoid community transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic among school children in the boarding facilities and invariably the state as a whole, hence the test.