N25, 000 LEVY FOR COVID-19 AND MALARIA TEST FOR SCHOOLS PUPILS: SPN SUPPORTS PARENTS PROTEST
OGUN STATE GOVERNMENT MUST RESCIND THIS DISCRIMINATORY POLICY AND BEAR THE COSTS OF THE TEST
WE CALL ON THE NUT, NLC AND TUC TO DEMAND A STOP TO THIS RIP-OFF AND DAYLIGHT ROBBERY OF CITIZENS BY THE STATE GOVERNMENT!
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Ogun State chapter, supports the protest of parents of graduating pupils in private schools, whom the state government has levied a whopping N25, 000 (twenty five thousand naira) as fee for COVID-19 and Malaria Test, as a requirement before their wards are allowed to resume back when the schools open. We condemn this stone-hearted, wicked, irresponsible, discriminatory and reprehensible action of the Dapo Abiodun APC-led government.
We call on the Ogun state government to immediately rescind its decision to levy the parents. We demand that the state government takes full financial responsibility of all the COVID-19 Test for pupils, teachers and other education workers across the state both in private and public schools without discrimination, before the schools are reopened, and that provision of personal protective gears and other safety measures be put in place in place, to prevent the transmission of the disease among pupils and workers in schools.
Failure to do this, we call on parents and students with the support of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Ogun state to stage mass protest, demonstrations and picket in order to compel the state government to reverse this discriminatory policy. Teachers in public schools should stage strikes and walkout to demonstrate solidarity with teachers and students in the private school whose health and safety is currently at risk as a result of this criminal policy of the government. The trade unions must insist that if the government cannot guarantee the safety of teachers and students in any of the schools by taking responsibility for test and provision of PPES, then the schools should be closed down. Reopening schools in the midst of a raging pandemic is a big risk that could turn out to be an invitation to disaster. Now that the Dapo Abiodun government has decided to make matters worse by commercializing the basic means for students and teachers to protect themselves, then it should not be surprising if the rate of infection in the state soars over the next few weeks and months.
The SPN finds this latest additional fee to the list of levies payable by the long suffering parents for their wards, as charges by the state government very disturbing and disheartening. Especially, coming at a period, when the poor but hard working parents across the state are currently groaning under the weight of harsh and worsening economic conditions, made possible mainly by the anti-poor capitalist policies of the successive governments, and the lacklustre performance and ineptitude of the present Dapo Abiodun government, and partly by the advent of the COVID-19 outbreaks. It’s therefore unimaginable, crass recklessness and the highest insults, for the state government, to have flippantly treated the citizenry, knowing that these parents, who have struggled to fend for their wards need during the lockdowns, are currently living in an unprecedented sufferings and agonies made worse by COVID-19 Pandemic lockdowns, despite their partially lifting.
This same government could not provide any form of succour to the vast majority of the working and poor save for miserly and paltry food items as palliatives that were selectivity distributed to cronies as patronage. For this same government to now turn around and levy the parents under the guise of COVID-19 and malaria test for their wards is not only disdainful, unjust, but morally bankrupt. And it should be roundly condemned by all. The SPN supports the actions of the dissatisfied parents of the pupils in private secondary schools, who according to newspapers reports, angered by the demand of N25, 000 fee by the state government before their wards could access COVID-19 Test at the MTR 250 bad specialist hospital, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, the designated venue, had hit the streets in demonstrations and protest against the government decision, demanding its reversal. The parents were right and justified in their actions and the state government should be prevailed upon to reverse itself immediately.
More so now that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), contrary to what the Ogun state government would have the general public believe, has come out to say that COVID-19 tests in its 61 molecular laboratory facilities located across the country were free! This notwithstanding, the Ogun state government, through a statement by the special adviser to the governor on Basic and Secondary Education Mrs Ronke Soyombo, said that the government will bear the full costs of the COVID-19 tests for all the boarding SS3 students in the state owned public schools. And while reacting to the protest by parents of private schools pupils, had maintained that parents will need to pay the levy and get a certificate to show that their children are COVID-19 negative before they could be allowed to resume school. She further stated “All private school owners are also expected to ensure that all their boarding students are certified COVID-19 Test negative before being admitted into boarding facilities. To further assist the private schools, Ogun state government has negotiated a huge discount in the cost of COVID-19 Test with healthcare service providers”!
The SPN wishes to state that we are in full support of all preventive measures geared towards ensuring that pupils in both private and public basic and secondary schools and all the workers in these schools are tested and certified before resumption, and other necessary steps are taking in ensuring that they are safe from contracting the infectious COVID-19 disease. But we are strongly opposed to a situation where the pupils, their parents or the workers, are being made to bear the brunt’s of the costs of these measures. The state government must be prepared to bear the costs as parts of it overall duties of adequately funding the public education sector, and the provision of other facilities that would make learning and teaching worthwhile and safe given the fact that the school reopening is taking place in the midst of a raging pandemic.
The SPN frowned against the discrimination of the state government against parents of private schools pupils. That the parents had to send their wards to private schools in the first instance, is a reflections of the failure of the government to adequately fund the state owned schools. Sending their wards to the private schools for must parents was not a choice freely made, but made possible by the worsening conditions of the public schools with inadequate facilities and poor learning conditions, which had forced the parents to opt for the private schools; which though, in most cases are not better off! Yet the same government had licensed these so called private schools. Therefore, Since COVID-19 infection is of public health importance, as the unfolding events have shown, government would do well not to gamble with the health of the school pupils and the general public by not prioritizing profits over the health needs of the citizens.
This has again confirmed our contentions, that the Dapo Abiodun’s government is not different from all successive capitalist governments in the state. Whose stock in trade has always been and continues to be the guaranteeing of profits for few rich as against the needs of the working and poor majority, through the implementation of anti-poor: policies of Public Private Partnerships (PPP); commercialization of education; privatization of public utilities; contract system; increased taxes and levies etc.
Till date, this same government has refused to implement the N30:000:00 new minimum wage approved by the federal government for the workers. Added to this, is his refusal to pay workers backlogs of unpaid salaries and allowances in the public service, including the education workers: MAPOLY, TASCE, SAPADE; healthcare workers’ OOUTH; and others! The road infrastructures across the state have completely collapsed. The other sectors of state economy have not fared any better! The only working social segment of the Dapo Abiodun-led government that has doubtlessly worked seamlessly, is the state government propaganda machines: which continues to get oiled with millions of tax payers monies, all to project a working government, that has no links with the sorrowed material realities in all facets of the state social and economic conditions, since his assumption of office.
Given this cheerless antecedents of government, the NLC, TUC, socialists, civil society organizations would do well to lend their voice and support against the arbitrary N25,000 COVID-19 and malaria test levy for graduating secondary students, by calling on the Dapo Abiodun’s government to immediately rescind its decision, and demand that pupils and the education workers in all basic and Secondary schools (public and private) across the state be tested for COVID-19, before resumption at no costs to their parents, but to be borne by the government, and also demand that the required safety measures be undertaken, and protective gears and other facilities that would ensure seamless physical distancing be provided by the government to guarantee COVID-19 free learning and teaching environments, so as to safeguard the health of all and sundry both in schools and at home.
Eko John Nicholas Chairperson
SPN Ogun State