- Authorities stop pupils from writing promotion exams
- Such levy is strange, unheard of – Mother
Burial levy? What is the purpose of such a levy in a school environment? Why should school authorities insist on its payment? Why should its non-payment stand between a pupil and his promotion examination? These are probably part of the myriad of questions running through the minds of Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose Eze as they ruminate over the strange decision by the authorities of their children’s school to stop them from sitting for their third term examinations over the issue.
The Eze family had allegedly defaulted in the payment of a certain burial levy imposed by the management of the Mother of Perpetual Help Nursery and Primary School, a Catholic Church-owned mission school located in the Ojo, Alaba area of Lagos.
And as a sanction, the school authorities sent out their three children, Arinze Cynthia, Emmanuel Eze and Clare Eze from the examination hall, while their classmates wrote the third term promotion examination.
Our correspondent gathered that the deceased for which the burial levy was imposed was neither a worker in the school nor an employee of the church, the proprietor of the school. That, however, underscores the reason why the insistence of the school authorities on the payment of the burial levy has made parents curious.
Many have raised questions about the possibility of a “hidden benefit” for the school’s staff in the payment of such strange levy by the pupils.
The genesis of the matter was the decision by the authorities of the school to help one of its pupils who had recently lost a relation to give the deceased a befitting burial. To raise funds for the burial, the school was said to have imposed levies on all the pupils, ranging between N300 and N400.
The parents, who were aware that the deceased was not a staff of the school or the church, of course, raised an eyebrow, particularly when those pupils who defaulted were barred by the school authorities from sitting for the third term promotion examination.
Mr. and Mrs. Eze whose three children fell in this category of defaulters felt sourcing for funds for the burial of a pupil’s relation should rather be voluntary since it had nothing to do with the official fees, programmes and functions of the school.
The parents raised an observation on what they regarded as an illegal levy, when their children put subtle pressure on them to pay up as most of their classmates had already done so. Curious about making such a levy compulsory, the parents sought an explanation from the school authorities but unable to get a satisfactory answer, they decided not to pay such an “illegal levy.”
To their surprise and dismay, their three children were disallowed from writing the examination inspite of the fact that they were not owing school fees.
A source told our correspondent that the school, in its efforts to demonstrate adequate moral and financial support to the family of the deceased, who was a relation of one of their pupils, imposed the funeral levy on the other pupils.
The levy, we gathered, varied, depending on each of the pupil’s class.
A source who simply identified herself as Funmi said, “As the parents were up-to-date in payment of fees and were not owing, they could not comprehend the meaning of burial levies when they were told that the school had denied their children the sitting for promotion examination over non-payment of the levies.
“I was so surprised. Sadly, the children who were denied sitting for their examination were being sponsored by their mother as their father had lost his job and now is also facing some health challenges.”
Meanwhile, a relation of the Eze children, Mr Richmond Chinozo, has vowed to take up the school management on the matter.
Chinozo said the school’s action had subjected his nephews to unwarranted academic setback.
He told our correspondent that the funeral levy over which the school authorities had treated the children shabbily had traumatised them as they had missed their promotion examination.
“As the drama started unfolding, I couldn’t believe it. So, I have to send their mother to the school to obtain more information, because their father has lost his Job and the woman is the only one footing the bill of the children’s education. Recently, their father had to borrow from a neighbour to pay their school fees,’Chinozo said.’
Explaining further, he said, “During the examination period, the three children, Arinze Cynthia, Eze Emmanuel and Eze Clare, were chased out of the examination hall because they were owing funeral levies. The first day, they were allowed to write a few papers, believing that they would bring the money the following day. “On the second day, when we didn’t pay the fee, they were sent out of the examination hall. On getting home on that day, they met their mother and myself. They said they were sent out of class because of the burial levies they were yet to pay.
“When I asked them about the essence of the levies, they said a relation of a pupil in their school died and the school imposed a compulsory levy on every pupil for the burial of the deceased, who was not a member of the school’s staff.
‘’At that point, I called the school’s head teacher on phone to confirm, and he said he was the one who chased out the pupils from the examination hall because they didn’t pay the burial levy. He also said that most of the pupils had paid the levies except my nephews and a few others. The burial levies, according to him, are N400 for basic 5 and N300 for basic 3.”
Asked about the reason behind the Eze family’s refusal to pay the levy, he said, “To be sincere with you, I don’t have issue with the amount they asked them to pay. Even as I am talking to you, the children are not owing any official levy or school fee.
‘’What I don’t understand is the introduction of burial levies to a three year-old-pupil. I can’t just comprehend it. Later, when I was not taking it easy with the head teacher, Mr. Tony Nwoko, on phone, he told me to pay any amount I was capable of. I, however, told him that I didn’t have any money to pay for burial because I don’t see any sense in levelling a burial levy on a young boy.
“Imagine, what is burial levy in a school system? Imagine a kid of three years old, you are associating him with burial, and because of this, you denied them the sitting for promotion examination.”
Chinozo also claimed that the pupils missed no fewer than 15 examination papers when they were sent away from school over the nonpayment of the burial levy. “As I’m talking to you, the children have missed no fewer than 15 papers out of 19 subjects because of the burial levy, and I wonder how they would move to the next class,” he said.
No to burial levy
Mrs. Uzoma Eze, the mother of the children, who also spoke with our correspondent, insisted that the family would not pay the burial levy.
She argued that paying such levy on behalf of her children in their tender ran contrary to her religious belief.
“Since the matter happened, I couldn’t get my composure because since my husband lost his job, I have been the only one struggling to ensure the children are not denied access to education until the school management came up with the burial levies which sounded so strange to me.
“Since I have been hearing different levies that schools usually introduce, I have never heard of burial levy unless from this school. And when I was told, I have to tell my brother, who I believe is more educated than me to intervene.
“He too was disappointed that the children could be denied the right to sit for their examinations because of a burial levy. I went to the school more than three times over the issue, but the authorities didn’t listen to me. I was told that payment of the burial levies was compulsory,” Eze said.
Our ordeal-Eze’s children
Two of the distraught pupils, Cynthia and Emmanuel, recounted their experience.
While Cynthia said, “Our teacher sent us out of examination hall because we have not paid burial levy. It is N400”, Emmanuel added, “My own burial levy is N300. I am in basic three.”
Our correspondent also learnt that the three children, had earlier been a subject of ridicule amongst the staff of the, who allegedly became opposed to the pupils and their family.
An uncle to the pupils, Chinozo said, “Before the commencement of the examination, One Mr. Felix Nwoko had paraded the children before their colleagues at the assembly ground like thieves because they were sent home because of the levy and a party fee. I was annoyed when I heard it and had wanted to go and challenge him, but I was later advised to be patient till I would have the opportunity to expose their wrong doings. And for this, I am using this opportunity to tell the Lagos State Government and the concerned authorities to investigate series of misconducts going on in the school.
The school’s head teacher, Mr. Tony Nwoko, however declined to comment when contacted by our correspondent.
Nwoko said, “Though I’m aware of the case, but to be sincere with you, the protocol of the school does not permit me to speak with you at this time. Though I’m the head teacher, the management would not allow me to comment on it.
The Lagos State Coordinator of the Child Protection Network, Mrs. Ngozi Okoro, while speaking on the matter, said she was aware of the Ezes’ case.
Okoro added that the matter would soon be investigated.
“We are aware of the case and our team is about to commence investigation. I can’t imagine that a school could deprive a pupil an access to write an examination because of a burial levy that doesn’t exist in the school system. But having said this, we will soon be on the matter and get our findings back to you,’’ she said.