YARPAH TOWN, River Cess – A recent survey conducted by The Bush Chicken in River Cess has shown that some public schools in the county are still charging fees for elementary and junior high.
The survey was inspired by a statement made by the communications director of the Ministry of Education, Maxim Bleetahn on Echo Radio, one of River Cess’ local radio stations.
Bleetahn said that from first to ninth grade, there should be no fees for students at public schools. Meanwhile, tenth to twelfth graders should only be required to pay L$1,000 (US$6.49).
“No one should take a dime from any elementary or junior high students,” Bleetahn said. “Just come from the farm and take your child or children to the school, let them put their names down free – no money business. You just call 1416 to report anyone who will ask you for money.”
According to Bleetahn, senior high students should pay L$500 (US$3.25) for the first semester and the balance L$500 during the second half of the academic year. He noted that all payments should be made through mobile money.
During the survey, several parents told The Bush Chicken that they had been charged higher fees for elementary and junior high.
Nathaniel Glaydor, a businessman in Yarpah Town, had just registered his two children at the Yarpah Town Public School where he paid L$1,600 (US$10.39) for his son in the ninth grade. This was a day after Bleetahn’s interview.
“I heard the announcement on the radio and I went to register my children, but the principal says the information is not true,” Glaydor said. “I spent almost L$3,000 [US$19.48] for the two children.”
Two other junior high students, Onesmus Morris and Trokon Wisseh, told The Bush Chicken that they were asked to pay fees as well.
The total tuition fee for elementary students at the Yarpah Town Public School is L$1,285 (US$8.34), which is payable in three installments.
“When we heard the news on the radio, our whole community was rejoicing,” said Kennedy Kerkulah Jr., a young man from Yarpah Town. “For me, I am carrying all my children to register them [for] free.”
The principal of the Yarpah Town Public School, Amos K. Woryonwon, said he heard about the news, but not from Bleetahn.
“Even though I did not listen to the radio, but one of my teachers told me on the phone,” Woryonwon said. “I cannot say anything about that now until after our PTA [parent-teacher association] meeting. However, you can reference the receipts I issued to those who have registered.”
On Sunday, August 19, 2018, a PTA meeting was held at the Yarpah Town Public School and parents were made to understand that the fees being collected are for purchasing stationeries.
It is important to note the plight of the schools in question. Teachers in River Cess stated that for three academic years now, the county’s school system has not received stationery supplies from the Ministry of Education. In a telephone interview with The Bush Chicken, Bleetahn said the ministry would supply stationeries in abundance, though he did not say when.
The president of the River Cess chapter of the National Teachers Association of Liberia, Peter Gargar, who is the principal of the Gbediah Public School, told The Bush Chicken that he had mandated the registrar in his school to carry on registration “free of charge.”
“We decided to charge a little fee for P.E. [physical education] t-shirts and ID cards but when I heard the news, I told the registrar not to collect any money from anyone,” Gargar said. “If the parents want their children to wear P.E. t-shirts, we can discuss that in PTA meeting.”
The NTAL local president noted that he found out from the Government Central Elementary and Jr. High School in Cestos that fees are being charged for registration. The Bush Chicken has not verified this information.
William Jududoe, a Bassa language producer of Echo Radio, told The Bush Chicken that his four children were denied registration at the Yarpah Town Public School “because the interview with Bleetahn was on Echo Radio.”
Thomas Budu, the principal of the Gbarsaw Public School in Central River Cess District, said free registration is ongoing at his school.
“We are carrying on free registration as Bleetahn said,” Budu noted. “But after we shall have concluded registration, we will wait for stationeries before we resume classes.”
Roosevelt Kouviakoe, the human resource manager of the River Cess education system, told The Bush Chicken that there would be school supplies before September 3, 2018.
“We will do all we can as a government to provide schools with needed supplies before schools open September 3, 2018,” he noted. “There are no fees charged for elementary and junior high schools in our calendar. If any school is doing this, then we will find out and take appropriate steps.”
Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue