-- Claims corruption in the Nimba School System
Saclapea City Mayor has blamed public school authorities in Nimba County for registering students without issuing them receipts to take to their parents.
In a recent morning phone-in talk show on Radio Saclepea, Mayor Jeremiah B. Yangean, warned school authorities to desist from any practice that could undermine government's effort to build schools and upgrade the education system, and also avoid any act that could incite parents against the government.
In most cases, according to Yangean, public school authorities do not give receipts to a registered student for fees collected, while in another cases, receipts are written only for the government stipulated fees, leaving out the extra money being charged.
"As authority of this city, we will not sit idle and see parents being put under undue pressure to think it is the government demanding from them to pay extra money just for the children to be in school," Mayor Yangean said.
He added, "The Nimba Mayor Council has requested public school administrations to provide receipts for any transaction involving fees paid by students or their parents, so they will not feel cheated in the process."
Mayor Yangean said the refusal of public school administrations to issue receipts to students for any money paid as registration fees "is illegal and intended to tarnish the government's reputation, thereby inciting the patents against the its authorities."
"With the receipts, parents will be able to differentiate the government's stipulated fees, and the extra fees the local education authorities added on the government's money," he said.
"The only person that the parents are blaming in all these illegal collection of fees is President George Weah. As such, there should be receipts issued to the students to verify the difference in the fees," Yangean said.
However, the Chair of the House Committee on Education, Representative Johnson Gwaikolo, has warned public school administrations not to collect any money above the government's stipulated registration fees, "because doing so would tend to undermine the government."
In the ongoing public school registration process, school authorities have reportedly hiked the registration fees above government's stipulated price, under the pretext of undertaking Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) projects.
Whenever a student registers, the school authorities will not give the student any official receipt, something many parents are totally against.
According to some of them, there is no information on the bulletin board on campuses of many of the public schools to explain the various collection processes as done in the private school.
In the government's stipulation of registration for public schools, as announced by the District Education Officer (DEO) Lynol Martol, senior high school students are to pay L$3000, 7th to 9 grades L$2000; from the first grade to 6th grades, students are to pay L$1,000; while the kindergarten students will pay L$3,500 for the entire school year.
Martol said the county education team infused L$250 and L$150 into student registration to undertake as "projects" for the County Chief Education Officer (CEO) and the DEO respectively. He confirmed additional money payment for PTA as "project" fees.
Mr. Martol did not say what kind of projects are being identified and who proposed undertaking "projects" which authorities at the Ministry of Education in Monrovia have not sanctioned due to the present economic situation.
Many of the parents are of the opinions that the decision was taken by one person in the system under the pretense of "projects" to exploit the parents amid the present economic hardship.
Mr. Martol said the PTA fees should be L$1,000 but, contrary to this pronouncement, public school registrations for high school level in some schools are charging L$9,000 to L$10,000, where students are compelled to pay up front.
Meanwhile, reports coming from Gbehlay-Geh District #3, say parents are refusing to send their children to school due to the extra fees added to government's stipulated registration fees by school authorities. The parents have therefore called on MoE central office to clarify the "huge registration fees" for the already poverty-stricken parents.
In Ganta, it is alleged that registration for a 12th grader in J.W. Person and annexes are L$10,000. Junior high students are paying L$6,500, while the elementary students are paying L$5,000, something many parents or self supported students cannot afford.
Otis Menlor, an 11th grade student in Ganta, like many other prospective students, are not certain of enrolling in any of the government schools, owing to the hike in registration as announced by school authorities in the county, specifically the "cash down" requirement on all the charged fees.
"If we have all these money, then why can't we attend private school," the students have rhetorically asked.
With the introduction of 'free and compulsory' education under the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, many public schools have been overcrowded with students' enrollment.
In the last school year, the John Wesley High School, located in Ganta, the commercial hub of Nimba County, has over 2,000 registered students, graduating over 330 of them from the senior high section.