-Parents, School In Tussle
By Reuben Sei Waylaun
A group of concerned parents of the John Christian International School System (JCISS) situated in Virginia, outside Monrovia, Monday, July 30, 2018, threatened to take the school’s administration to court over charge of ‘exorbitant’ graduation fees (US$220.00), further accusing the JCISS’ administration of extortion, deception, and criminal syndicate that they have vowed to resist if the Ministry of Education fails to exercise its statutory responsibility in bringing the matter to logical conclusion.
From the inception of July this year, Aaron Dahn, one of several aggrieved parents leading the fight for the rest of the concerned parents, informed this paper in an exclusive interview that their patience has eroded and that it is time for them to take concrete actions that would compel the JCISS’ management to rethink their decision.
“The John Christian International School System is charging us (parents) US$220.00 just for high school graduation program alone. We believe that this amount is too much for us,” Dahn pointed out. Adding: “Under the MOE’s regulation governing school administrations, any extra fees other than the regular tuition should have been discussed with parents in order to derive a compromise. This is against the rules governing school administration and therefore we’ll not pay this money. Instead, we are calling on the Ministry of Education’s authorities to immediately play their role in ensuring that the JCISS stops extorting parents because it is totally wrong. If the MOE cannot handle this situation, we’ll go to the court for redress, and that we’ll also ensure that no graduation takes place.”
Given the nation’s current economic crisis, he argued that “it’s unfair for schools in this country to still be charging huge money for graduation exercises. We believe that these extra fees, other than the regular academic fees, should be negotiated with parents for an amicable resolution. In the absence of this, we’ll resist this extortionist behavior by the JCISS, which is also another criminal syndicate that we are going to reject at all cost.”
The annoyed parents raised the alarm over the alleged extortion by the JCISS amidst heightened economic crisis in the country, which has been worsened by an unprecedented high inflation and the skyrocketing of commodity prices in the country.
The dreadful economic hardship in the country is also reported to have caused the government of Liberia a serious headache in paying civil servants for the 2018 July 26 Independence Day celebrations, triggering wide range concerns amongst the population that this, too, may have an adverse effect on parent’s ability to pay their children tuitions for the coming academic semester.
“The administration, without any reason, has charged us (parents) this huge graduation fee,” Dahn asserted. Adding that, “Another serious concern that we have is that the JCISS’ administration has refused to tell us whether or not the government has refunded the West Africa Senior Secondary Examination Council (WASSCE) exams fees. We’ll find out from WAEC’s office on what’s happening to the amount that we (parents) paid on the promise that when the GOL pays the WASSCE fees, “they would refund our money.”
Notwithstanding, documents in the possession of this paper also point to the effect that the aggrieved parents of the JCISS have been engaging the authorities at the Ministry of Education and the school’s authorities relative to the possible resolution of the issue.
However, the matter still remains a highly contentious issue as the school’s administration has so far refused to drop the reported exorbitant fees charged for the upcoming graduation for its 12th graders. The JCISS is expected to graduate 26 students on 17th August 2018, but the angry parents have vowed to counter if the administration fails to listen and address their concerns.
“If the JCISS administration fails to listen and consult with us on this matter so that we can collectively derive a solution, we’ll make sure that no graduation will go on as planned by the administration,” another angry parent vowed.
Meanwhile, when contacted, JCISS’ proprietor, only identified as ‘Pastor Wonta’, said: “There are some parents who decided that they will cause problem for the school, but we want to tell them that they can go ahead. The school administration has not changed the graduation fees charged for each of the graduating student, and our date stands for the graduation, and nothing will change it. So, they (aggrieved parents) have their right to go to court, but we stand by our decision.”
“They can say and do whatever they want to do but, as far as the administration is concerned, those are fees that were charged for the past two academic semesters, and so, we have no intention to change it,” Pastor Wonta insisted.
Also speaking on the concerned expressed about the WASSCE’s return fees, he replied to inquiries: “If they want to know what’s happening to the WASSCE’s return fees, they can go to WAEC’s office to find out. I cannot say anything to you about it. They are the ones who should be telling you what’s happening to it since in fact they are curious to know about it.”
Extra charges out of schools’ curriculum not prescribed by the country’s Ministry of Education are amongst several issues raised in the past that are said to be greatly affecting parents. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of dollars are collected from parents each year for these extra academic activities, thus putting parents under severe pressure.
Despite the MOE’s previous warnings against said practices, the act seems to be continuing unabated across the country’s public and private schools. However, if the parents’ threat to sue to the JCISS administration in court materializes, it would be an unprecedented move in the country.
They’ll be the first group of parents to take such a bold step against a private school system in decades, and that thousands of eager parents would be interested to see how this matter unfolds in the coming days and weeks, given that both sides have so far demonstrated their exuberance in not willing to back off, at least for time being.
The Director of Communications at the Ministry of Education, Maxime Bleetan couldn’t be reached whether the ministry has received such complaint as his phones rang endlessly.