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Information reaching our newsdesk has revealed that no fewer than two hundred and fifty (250) principals in the Rivers State owned secondary schools will be kicked out of office for alleged collection of illegal levies from students.
Sources hinted this weekly that some school principals had levied students to pay extra charges, while registering them in the West Africa School Certificate Examinations (WASCE) and National Examination Council (NECO) last year. From what we gathered, close to four hundred and ninety-five million naira (495m) was illegally collected from innocent students.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has asked school principals and authorities of the Ministry of Education to account for the illegal fees charged students during registration for the annual Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations.
Wike, in a meeting with public school principals and officials of the ministry, including Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), on Tuesday in Government House, Port Harcourt, expressed displeasure that despite remitting monthly overheads to the ministry, principals have continued to charge students above the normal approved fees.
He, therefore, directed the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Dr Patricia Ogbonnaya, and the state Director of Secondary Education, Mrs. Mae Solomon, including the school principals to provide written explanation on the funds so far collected illegally from parents.
About 33,000 students registered for both West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE) and National Examination Council (NECO), both internal and external students last year as revealed by Director of Secondary Education, Mrs Mae Solomon.
The governor was visibly angry when Solomon further revealed that about N3,000 administrative charges were made on each candidate, accusing the officials of failing to utilize the ministry’s monthly overhead judiciously, thereby passing unnecessary financial burden to less privileged parents in the state.
He said: “I hereby direct the Commissioner for Education, the Permanent Secretary and the Director of Education, to within the next four hours, provide written explanations on the issue of the collection of unapproved levies.
“Tabulate the monies collected. How much was collected? How much got to the Education Ministry? How much was left with the principals? If this is not done, all of you will be suspended.
“Also, explain how much levies are being charged the students, and to which account are the monies paid into. Who is the approving authority of such an account?”.
The governor said that he will commence a cleansing process in the Ministry of Education and the public schools to reposition them for greater performance.
He said: “I will not spare anyone involved in defrauding our parents”.
The principals are expected to submit their written reports on Friday to the office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor, while the Commissioner, Permanent Secretary and Director, Secondary Education are to submit theirs within 24 hours.
The state governor hinted that he was poised to sanitise the system for effectiveness, adding, “It cannot be business as usual”.
Earlier in his remarks, Commissioner for Education, Professor Kaniye Ebeku, had stated that about 534 public secondary school principals in the state attended the meeting summoned by the state governor.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Dr Patricia Ogbonnaya and the Director of Secondary Education, Mrs Mae Solomon, explained that they arrived at the levies following meetings held by the top civil servants, Nigerian Union of Teachers and All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS) of the ministry during the immediate past administration.
They said that no formal memorandum has been written to Governor Nyesom Wike to seek his approval for the levies charged.
President of ANCOPSS in Rivers State, Mr. Austin Iroegbu, commended Wike for his investments in education, and disclosed plans to host the annual ANCOPSS Conference in Port Harcourt, and called on the governor to support the initiative.