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Basic education: FCT board to tackle illegal fees in public schools

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Following reports of hidden fees demanded in government-owned schools, the Federal Capital Territory Universal Basic Education Board (FCT-UBEB) has assured residents of its readiness to confront illegal payments in public schools.

During an anti-corruption radio programme, Public Conscience on Wednesday in Abuja, the FCT-UBEB Chairman, Hassan Sule committed to fighting extortion and other forms of illegalities that could hamper citizens from accessing primary education.

The programme is produced by the Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG).

An investigation by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) had indicted some primary and junior secondary schools in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, of contributing to the growing number of out-of-school children as they are demanded arbitrary fees from students before and after enrollment.

According to the report, in the FCT, enrolling a child into government-owned primary school costs between N10,000 and N20,000, while junior secondary schools cost higher.

Reacting to the investigation, Sule, who was represented by a Director of Education, Mallam Bashir Abubakar insisted that demanding fees from students under the UBE programme is illegal unless agreed by the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of the school.

Abubakar stated that the FCT-UBEB had been sanctioning officials in public schools who compromised standards, while urging Abuja dwellers affected by the hidden charges at public schools to endeavour to report officially to the board.

He emphasised that “primary and junior secondary education, which is supposed to be free and compulsory, is not entirely free.

“We have a slogan in UBEC: ‘Education for all’. Sometimes they say it is free, but it is not 100 percent free because parents are supposed to provide uniforms for the child. We equally have some Non-Governmental Organisations that generally come to support the government.

“The government provides infrastructure, the classrooms and all other things you need in the school, employ teachers, provide books, and many other materials for the school. But there is no way the government will take care of everything 100 percent.

“Anything that has to do with the charges has to do with the PTA and not the government. The parents decide what they want to do for the school.

“As for illegalities in public schools, you cannot say everybody will be 100 percent right, and that’s why there are rules and regulations to monitor and control. If there is any case of illegal collection of fees, our expectation from the side of the government is to get a report from anybody affected”.

On her part, an investigative journalist with the ICIR, Ijeoma Opara called on public schools to be transparent in their dealing, urging that there should be clarity on items covered by the UBE programme and those not covered.

Opara also stressed the need for more awareness of extortion and other forms of illegalities happening in public schools nowadays and maintained that the illegal fees demanded at public schools were immensely increasing the number of out-of-school children coupled with harsh economic times in Nigeria presently.

“Transparency should be taken very seriously. The parents should be more aware that these fees are wrong and can make an official report.

“I know that there are some schools where students are expected to pay for compulsory books like Mathematics, English, quantitative and verbal for some primary schools, and in cases where the schools did not expect you to pay, you’re expected to source for books in the free market”, Opara said.

Residents of Abuja and environs who called into the programme corroborated ICIR’s investigation, claiming that they were subjected to pay between N30,000 to N40,000 before enrolling their wards into public primary schools in the nation’s capital.

The UBE programme in Nigeria was launched on 30 September 1999 to wipe out illiteracy, poverty and ignorance.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio programme used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The programme has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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