Parents of students in private secondary schools in Ogun state, Sunday protested against the compulsory payment of N25,000 for COVID-19 test by each student.
Final class students are to resume on Tuesday ahead of their Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) starting on Monday, August 17.
The government had mandated each boarding student to undergo a test as a precondition for resumption into school.
The government said only students certified free of COVID-19 will be allowed into the school premises.
But, parents alongside their wards in large numbers visited 54gene COVID-19 Mobile Lab located within the state – owned MTR Specialist Hospital, Abeokuta, for COVID – 19 test, only to be informed of the alleged payment for N25,000 per student.
The parents became agitated and staged a protest against what they called monetisation of the test.
They also queried why the government would impose any levy on students of private schools while their counterparts in public schools were tested free, arguing that the disparity was against the electioneering manifesto that brought in the present administration of free education.
The aggrieved parents also shut the gate of the hospital, as part of moves to show their grievances against the payment. For more than six hours, they took over the premises and brought activities to a halt, preventing entry and exit into the hospital
One of the parents, Dr. Kehinde Sanwo who spoke to journalists, questioned why the government should discriminate between students in public and private schools, adding that they are all children of the state that should be treated equally.
Sanwo, who is the Vice Chairman, Parent Teachers Association (PTA) of the Taidob College, Asero, Abeokuta, said “The parents here are good citizens of Ogun state which we are taxpayers. And it is so disheartening that we are here at the MTR hospital, the venue for covid-19 test.
“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. Why this segregation?”
But, the Director of Public Health at the state Ministry of Health, Dr. Olukayode Soyinka denied the knowledge of the payment, saying he was not aware of the N25,000 COVID -19 test payment on private schools students.
Soyinka said, COVID-19 test before now had been free, stressing that he was just instructed by the state commissioner for health, Dr. Tomi Coker to make himself available at the venue to provide a conducive environment for the students.
He, however disclosed that the test was organised by the state government in conjunction with a private laboratory company, 54gene under the Public Private Partnership arrangement.
When called for his reaction, the Special Adviser to governor Dapo Abiodun on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan denied what the parents called segregation, saying “It’s not segregation, but a show of magnanimity by the state government.”
Hazzan said the parents are free to approach any certified COVID-19 Lab Centre to ensure their wards get tested and cleared free of the virus.
His words, “The test is not compulsory for day students, it is compulsory for borders. Borders in public schools 100 percent subsidy, borders in private schools 50 percent subsidy.
However, those in private schools or any parent may choose to approach any other lab aside from ours to get this test done. What is most important is that those labs that they go to must be NCDC certified.
“May I announce to you that anybody who is capable of enrolling his ward in private school has taken it beyond the level of a taxpayer. When you are in a private school, the argument of a taxpayer for such does not apply. It’s the school that we are compelling now to ensure that those in the exit classes are COVID – 19 negative and provide their test results. So, in providing it, if they want us to be the one responsible for the test, we have gone one step further to give a 50 percent discount. If that is the argument of being a taxpayer, the state government has also done something.
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“Most of the ones conducted by the state government have been free thus far, and a good number of them have been paid for. But whether it’s free or paid for, someone somewhere is paying for it. So, the ones that are carried out by the state may not have been paid for by the patients but it costs the state government money,” Hazzan added.