On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, announced a series of packages aimed at ameliorating the effects of the current economic recession on Anambra people. The relief packages included tax relief; special intervention programme for small and medium enterprises, MSMEs and large enterprises; social intervention programmes for low income households; and intervention in infrastructure-for-jobs. These, he called ''Economic Stimulus Package''.
Fides will like to focus on the relief stimulus on education, being that it has been one sector for which the state has received the plaudits in the recent past. It is also a critical sector which deals with tomorrow.
During the broadcast, the governor announced the abolition of the imposition of unapproved levies on students in public primary and secondary schools.
We find this one on education very timely, given the gradual introduction of what looks like extortion of students. Indeed, Fides found out that in many schools in the state, especially primary, all manner of levies are imposed on the pupils outside the statutory tuition fees. Hence there exist such levies as Physical Education (PE), hand work, uniform, textbooks and PTA.
In many schools, pupils are made to pay for physical education uniforms despite having the normal ones they wear. This happens especially during inter-house sports.
On hand work, pupils are usually asked to bring brooms. On the face of it, the students are expected to make the brooms themselves as a form of developing craftsmanship. But given the scarcity of bamboos these days, they usually buy such brooms in the market, thus defeating the idea of the hand work in the first place.
Worse still, some schools require pupils to present toilet tissue papers and souvenirs which are often put to uses known only to such schools. Of course, such items are bought by the pupils.
Yet again is the issue of uniforms. Some schools arbitrarily direct pupils to sew new uniforms at a cost to the pupils. Thankfully, this practice has been stopped by Anambra State Universal Basic Education Board, ASUBEB.
The issue of textbooks is one that has raised dust. Pupils are not allowed to buy the required textbooks from the open market where they are cheaper but from either government or school sources. This costs far more to the detriment of the pupils and it is carried on because of the commission enjoyed by the suppliers.
On PTA, some schools charge pupils money in order to pay teachers employed by the Parent-Teacher-Association of the schools. These category of teachers are paid N10, 000 monthly and they are employed to address the shortfall in the number of teachers.
Now, these things should not be happening as they are distractive to students. But it is regrettable that they have persisted despite past attempts to arrest the situation.
We suggest that government sets up a monitoring group that will ensure that no one circumvents the recent directives to continue extorting money from students and parents.
Schools lacking teachers, especially public schools, should approach government for help in recruiting teachers, rather than embark on half-baked measures that invariable lower the quality of education given to students.
Students should equally be allowed to source for textbooks from the open market and not being forced to buy from an expensive source, a source which may likely be working in cahoots with the school management to rip students off.
When government announces a halt to anything, that thing should be halted. A situation where government does not follow up on its policies means that a bad situation becomes worse and we do not want that.
We urge the government to follow up on its commendable gesture as it will be for the good of all parties involved.