Nigeria has been abuzz with the recentoutburst of little Miss Success Adegor of Okotie-Eboh Community Primary School,Sapele, Delta State. The innocent little girl demonstration via a recordedvideo that went viral on Facebook, frustration over the penchant by schools allover the South South at least, to send students away from school for failure bytheir parents to pay school fees and sundry levies.
In this case, Success’ school, a Delta Stategovernment owned public school is supposed to be a free education school butsomehow, a handsome levy of N1000 was imposed for examination. The West AfricanExamination Council, WAEC charges N5000, the National Examination Council,NECO, N.. and the Joint Matriculation Admissions Board, JAMB, N6000 for theirqualifying examinations yet this rundown school whose teachers are paid monthlyby government, were demanding N1000 towrite questions on the blackboard for the pupils to answer on their own sheetsof paper, an examination that would cost nothing extra to conduct.
Many schools both public and private indulgein sending students home daily for failure to pay school fees, sports levies,excursion this, handwork, etc. It is not surprising that Delta governmentschools are milking parents while the education officials who should sanitizethe system claim ignorance.
A young girl in my country home, Ogwashi-Uku to enroll in a public school was given a bill of N19,000 to cover.
None of these items are to be provided by the parents/guardians in kind only cash.
The story is no different in Rivers State as principals task parents and guardians to raise money for this and that, sundry needs. Only last year, the state governor called school heads to order demanding an end to levies stating categorically that as the Rivers government was a free education state for primary schools, nobody was authorized to collect levies.
the school heads however complained that they deserve money to run schools hence the levies in lieu of imprest no longer being provided. We are yet to ascertain if the schools are complying with the Wike directive. For the school administrators, all they see is students as avenues for an endless flow of easy cash, one nobody really accounts for.
For Delta State government, little Success hasexposed the rot beyond the levies as the horrible state of schools especiallyin the suburbs. in a swift reaction thegovernment sent Success’ headmistress on suspension warning that no school issupposed to charge beyond the approved N100 levy which begs for explanation asthe state is one of the states that receive the highest allocations from Abuja.
Moving a little further, one finds a pool ofcorruption in the registration of candidates for the WAEC/NECO .Externalcandidates coming in to sit for the examination are charged from N40,000 to asmuch as N150,000 for an examination that is actually N6,000 while privateschools lump this with the second and third term fees making parents go throughsevere stress to meet up.
To relieve parents of this burden, some stategovernments step in and pay the WAEC and NECO fees for students from theirstates. Others, especially non-state indigenes have to cough out money for theobnoxious fees and Social Media users can attest to the fact that appeals havebeen hitting their in boxes from mothers seeking help to ensure their childrenconclude their education.
This is very ad for the harassed students,parents and society. There should be regulations in place pegging such fees.Private school tuition is their business but it should be the business ofgovernment to stop the unfriendly financial castration of parents and guardiansas well as the psychological abuse this places on children. Fees for WAEC/NECOshould e uniform in all schools, public or private, the exact charge from theexamining bodies; levies should be moderated and only if necessary and thatshould e built into the total packaged fees in private schools.
Emphasis should be on helping students createthings, working their minds through thinking outside the ox rather thanapproximating everything to cash. I can attribute my resourcefulness today tothe drillings I received from having to do a lot of things for myself ashandwork in my primary and early secondary education years. In this era ofmassive unemployment with a record 28 million losing their jobs in this countryin under four years, the least we can do is empower our young ones withlife-skills while still in their tender age so they can shake-off the mentalitythat they need to be employed by government or oil companies rather than seeingthemselves also as potential employers.
Worthy of attention also is the deplorablestate of many state owned schools now being unearthed thanks to the Successsaga. The state of our schools demand emergency actions. It is disheartening tosee schools in this oil rich zone in such disreputable state. That Sapeleschool at sent Success home is nothing but a death trap yet the governmentwould be hounding private schools inmore habitable state with better facilities. What teacher would give his/herbest under such a structure?
And how come the UBEC administrators did not see the danger the poor kids are being placed under. Is that not in the same state with the collapsed school building that claimed lives in Lagos recently? That Sapele school is a disgrace to efforts towards education for all in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and am pained that more schools in worse conditions are being captured daily. Make no mistakes, these terribly run down state is all over the Niger Delta and a big shame in view of all the resources that flow into the region.
Pure love for education made Success cry outagainst being sent out of school. What were the school head and that of schoolsin such shameful and dangerous states waiting for to cry out and demandrehabilitation? And the parents? But for that girl, Success, life would havegone on as usual until the roof finally hits the children. The Delta Stategovernment has suspended the school headmistress and sacked some 35 schoolheads and some officials in the ministry and State Universal Basic Educationoffices over the levies saga.
But the rot is deeper. There are somequestions begging for answers-Are there no budgets for schools renovations? Dothe inspectors really visit schools outside the cities? Is it any wonder thatleft abandoned by the system the school heads resort to every means to collectmoney?
The Delta State government and indeed, allNiger Delta governments should take an inventory of the state of schools intheir domain, audit of the number of students in the schools, availableteachers, state of teaching facilities, how monies budgeted for are disbursedand begin to address identified problems. Sacking school heads is not theanswer.
Many schools are in highly unhygienic andinhabitable state yet each year huge sums are budgeted for rehabilitation ofschools and contracts supposedly awarded.
All monies budgeted for education in statesand local governments must be appropriately disbursed by government andtransparently utilized for the common good of the children so that healthy,bright children with sound mind who can rebuild and uphold Nigeria can benurtured.
The onus is on all of us as parents, civilsociety and the media to keep watch to ensure the right things are being done.
#Gender Accountability and Transparency
ConstanceMeju is a Port Harcourt based veteran journalist, publisher and women advocate