From: Nosa Akenzua, Asaba
Delta State Government has frowned at the unauthorised levies and fees unilaterally imposed on pupils by schools vis- a- vis sending children away from school with the added threat of being flogged for inability to pay school fees.
The Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Mr Chiedu Ebie gave this position in an interview with journalists during an inspection visit to Okotie-Eboh Primary School 1 & II, Sapele in Sapele Local Government Area, Delta state on the basis of the video of one Miss Success of Okotie Eboh Primary School, Sapele who was sent home over her inability to pay school fees.
According to Mr Ebie, “Since the video of Miss Success of Okotie Eboh Primary School, Sapele broke and went viral last Friday, I have been inundated with messages and calls.
“By virtue of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act, Education at the Basic Education Level is free. However in Delta State that provision is also extended to Senior Secondary Level with the resultant effect being that Basic and Secondary Education (primary, junior and secondary) in Delta State is and still remains free “It therefore means that the Head Teacher of the School had no right to impose any levy or fees on the pupils of her School. In my brief encounter with the Head Teacher this morning, there appeared to be numerous inconsistencies in her response on this issue as she was unable to categorically state who authorized her to impose the levies or fees which is in clear breach of the extant rules.
“Consequently I have directed the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to suspend the Head Teacher pending the outcome of a formal enquiry into the issue of unauthorized levies/and fees imposed by her in the School”, the education Commissioner stated.
The Commissioner said that the suspension of the head teacher was to enable the state government commence a full scale investigation into the reported case of illegal collection of fees in the school.
“I have conducted a preliminary investigation into the matter; so, I have some information but in the interim, we are suspending her as the head teacher of the school pending the outcome of the investigation of the committee that would be constituted.
According to him, there is right to fair hearing, adding that it was for this reason that a committee would be set up by the Ministry to examine the allegation of illegal collection in the school.
“We are suspending her with immediate effect because obviously, there are contradictions in her story; everybody heard when she initially talked about school fees and for the fact that little Miss Success was sent home from school for her parents’ inability to pay the supposed school fees for 2018/2019 levy.
“We have continuously reminded heads of Primary and Secondary Schools in the state that they do not have the right to impose levies on their pupils and students; that is why, at the beginning of every session, we circulate what we refer to as permissible levies to all schools through the Chief Inspectors of Education (CIEs) but a lot of them tend to abuse it for their own selfish interest,” he added.
While saying that the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act made Primary and Basic Education free in Nigeria, the Commissioner, however, noted that it is not unusual that levies are paid even in Unity Schools “but such levies must be specific and must also be minimal so that parents can pay.”
On the state of the infrastructure in the school, Mr Ebie stated that it is important to clarify that Okotie Eboh Primary Schools I and II, Sapele exist in two locations in the same neighbourhood and within a minute’s walk of each other and having discovered the dilapidated state of the infrastructure in the Schools, steps were immediately taken by the State Government, through the Ministry of Basic & Secondary Education, to carry out a phased renovation and upgrade of the infrastructural facilities beginning with Okotie Eboh Primary School II.
He said, “It is important to place on record and for the avoidance of doubt that the contract of the first phase was awarded on the 29th of December, 2018 and work has since commenced.”
He stated, “As a responsible and responsive government, it is our duty to address issues that affect the citizenry of the State and in doing so, we will ensure that renovation works are carried out satisfactorily and within reasonable time to ensure that we continue to provide a conducive learning environment for our pupils and students.”
He disclosed that there are 1,125 public primary schools and 465 public secondary schools in Delta State, saying that it was not humanly possible to address the infrastructural needs of all the school at the same time, pointing out that “what we do is to attend to them (the schools) in phases.”