MONROVIA, Montserrado – Across the country, there have been numerous reports of graduating high school students being put out of school for their inability to pay fees required to take the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations.
Beginning in 2018, the Ministry of Education has made WASSCE the test that senior students must pass in order to graduate from high schools or gain admission into universities. The regional test, taken in other anglophone West African countries, is replacing the Liberia Senior High School Certificate Examination at more than twice the cost to students.
A journalist in Grand Cape Mount, Mark Rogers, reported on Wednesday that schools in Robertsport, including Medina Public High School were putting senior students out of school for not being able to pay the 2018 exams fees.
According to Rogers, in some cases, students who paid the US$60 equivalent in Liberian dollars were also rejected and sent home.
Myking Suah, another journalist in Grand Kru, reported that many senior students in the county fear they may not write their exams because of their inability to pay the fees.
Suah said students from the Barclayville Central High School have appealed to stakeholders in the county to help in settling their requirements for the exams.
In Paynesville, a group of senior students from Kendeja High School had gathered at the home of President-elect George Weah on Tuesday to seek his intervention in paying their exam fees.
The students claimed they were sent out of school for not being able to pay an amount of US$60 being charged to write the exams.
A 12-grade student of the school, Emmanuel Kpan, told The Bush Chicken on Wednesday that their gathering at Weah’s home was prompted by an announcement made by Principal James Mulbah that the deadline for payment of WASSCE fees would be on Friday, January 12.
During the campaign period for the runoff presidential election, Weah had promised that he would handle the payment of WASSCE fees for students. Kpan said they had gone to remind him of his commitment.
“Students have been embarrassed over time regarding this fee and the only option we have is to go out and seek help,” he said.
He said in addition to the WASSCE fees, students are also being requested to pay L$500 (US$3.84) to facilitate the establishment of a science laboratory in the school.
Another student, Ernest Kollie, said he is self-supported and would have no means to generate the test fees anytime soon. He added that being out of school to raise the full amount would negatively impact his performance in the exams.
Meanwhile, another member of the Kendeja High School senior class, Obediah Neor, is appealing to educational authorities through the school administration to extend the payment deadline of the WASSCE and laboratory fees.
Neor said most parents had promised to complete payment of the fees by the end of January.
When contacted, Mulbah, the principal, said the school had not put out any students for failure to pay exams fee, although he would not comment on claims about the laboratory fees.
Meanwhile, the Liberia office of the West African Examinations Council, in consultation with the Ministry of Education, has extended the deadline for registration for the 2018 exams to January 30. According to a press release, the extension was driven by numerous appeals from the public.
The Ministry of Education also reminded school administrators against not to deny students from being in school for not paying the exams fee, noting that it was not a legitimate reason to keep students out of school.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah