Godwin AJOM, Calabar
Ahead of the resumption of schools on Monday, January 10, the Cross River state government has warned against the collection of monies and in some cases, driving home pupils from public primary schools, for non- payment of school fees after the state government has declared primary education in public schools as free and compulsory.
Speaking in Calabar on the development, special adviser to the governor on Education, Castro Ezama, said it was illegal for anyone to send home pupils from public primary schools for non-payment of school fees in the state.
“The head teachers will tell you, that they collect these monies and send to the zonal heads, and it’s true. And then some will say they used it to get packets of chalks, registers and diaries, and I am saying stop it.
“These things are usually provided by the government. Ask for them if you don’t have and you will be given. They have to stop because we have a very proactive state universal education board. If parents on their own would want to go and make this payment fine, but don’t make it compulsory because it is free.
“The one that hurts me the more is sending them off school. It is wrong. At St. Joseph Primary School, Obudu, I found people working out and I stopped and they said they drove them for not paying school fees of about N2,000.
“I took some cars carried those pupils back to school, met the head teacher and he said the instruction is from the zone. And I said tell the zone that they cannot do this. Parents leave their kids in school and go to work and their businesses and you are sending them back home to go and do what?”, he said
Castro stressed that the free and compulsory primary education covered the entire state and not just Calabar. He regretted that Cross River State was leading in the number of out of school children and yet kids were often sent back from schools for non-payment of school fees,
“If they say people should pay, tell the head teachers to give you state government bank account numbers, because there is no way anyone can give you account numbers because it is free and compulsory; it is illegal to collect any monies from primary school pupils in the name of school fees in Cross River State,” he said.
Responding, some residents of the state appealed that the public schools should be checked that the charges are too much.
“On the aspect of school fees, we are still having different fees from different schools. The principals just stay and fix school fees as they like. Honestly, as school is starting on Monday, I will like to go and check. You will see different schools with different levies, especially in public schools in Calabar. It is too much please, we parents, we are really in pains please let the government help us,” Emmanuel said.
Another parent who identified himself as Bassey also said “the system of education in Cross River State is too rough, my son is attending state housing primary school, Calabar. On the day of enrolment, I asked the administrator why they collect school fee, when it is free? She said it was for school inspectors. In my village at Akamkpa, teachers are still collecting N500 from pupils. When you ask, they will say it is from school authorities. But I am surprised to hear that primary school is free.”