Amid complaints of ‘extortion’
Following complaints from parents and guardians about extra fees apart from what students were told to pay earlier as activity fees, the principal of the John Wesley Pearson Elementary School in Ganta Anthony Z. Topoe has described as “unlawful” any extra amount collected from students by teachers.
Mr. Topoe spoke against the backdrop of complaints from parents and guardians about extra fees they continue to pay apart from what the administration has requested students pay during registration period.
Topoe made the clarification in his office when he spoke to the Daily Observer on April 30, after he was asked about mounting concerns expressed by parents regarding payment of extra fees.
Students enrolling in the elementary section of public schools in the country are covered by the free primary education policy introduced in 2006.
Students are not to pay any fee, including registration, according to Mr. Toe. However, as complaints from many parents and guardians have revealed, teachers reportedly charge students at the beginning of every test period to pay fees for printing of tests papers. This sometimes amount to reportedly L$1,000 for individual student at different class levels.
A guardian, who survives by selling bread to send her daughter to school, complained that she took her child from a private school to the Pearson Elementary, because of the “free education policy” covering students there. But the current situation may cause her to get her daughter removed from the school, since money payment there is similar to that at private schools.
Although parents and guardians refrained from calling names for fear of reprisal from the teachers against their children, they said they were pleased to get the help of the media in publicizing their grievances and added that this will prevent teachers from demanding payment of extra school fees from students.
Mr. Topoe said, “I think that the government said there is no registration fee paid here; but we pay activity fees, according to how it is arranged. Students pay money for their Physical Education (PE) T-shirt, identification card, District Education Officer (DEO) and project fees.”
According to Mr. Toe, a student is required to pay a total of L$1,270 for those activities.
“It is from the project fee, for instance, that we were able to fence the campus so as to deter some of the students from running home during school hours,” Topoe said.
He said since parents are complaining, he will institute a vigilant monitoring system to track teachers and that anyone caught charging extra fees will be referred to the DEO.
“All the books we are using are provided by the government as you can see some in my office, and that the teachers are paid by government. We therefore instructed them to write tests on the chalkboard as they were trained to do,” Topoe said.
He added it is only during the exam period that, “we print the students’ tests and provide sheets for the teachers to use.”
The school hosts 508 students from Grade 1-6 this academic year. However, most of them are “underprivileged” students living with guardians, because the compulsory primary education policy is best suited to their condition.