By Jonathan Ugbal
Cross Riverians like millions of other Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief on October 20, 2014 when the world health organization WHO declared the country free of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease ( EVD)
The spread of the virus in Nigeria had a rippling effect with the education sector being one of the most vulnerable and most hit, besides the medical personnel.
Months later, management of public primary schools in Obudu Local Government Area of Cross River state are now collecting a fee tagged “Ebola fee” of one hundred naira (N100) with some pupils even sent home for failure to pay.
“My senior(elder) brother has paid my school fees, but they drove me home for Ebola fee” says Ms. Eberechukwu a primary two pupil in Holy Child Convent primary school.
When CrossRiverWatch visited some of the schools, management of the schools insisted they were acting on the directive of the state government.
Mr. J.J.A Andorndeye, the head teacher of Saint Stephens primary school and former Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Obudu chapter said that the issue has been creating problems and the fee was an agreement between the state government and the state chapter of the NUT.
“It is a good thing you came to find out because it has been creating problems for us, the state government asked us to levy students one hundred naira for two terms in order for us to purchase materials needed to curb the spread of Ebola, This is like when they brought computerization and examination fee as well as perimeter fence to prevent encroachment so we are acting according to directives”.
“The fee was originally two hundred naira but we had to plead for a split for two terms which ends this second term”, stated Mr. Otogo of Holy Child Convent primary school. “Principals of secondary schools were given ten thousand naira while nothing was given to primary schools by the government, besides that money is grossly inadequate, but to show transparency the state Auditor General will visit next week to audit the monies collected and how it was spent, it was an agreement with NUT and circulars were circulated to that effect” he adds.
The staff however could only provide circulars dated 19 September 2014 which the state NUT urged teachers to stay at home until the state government provides the required materials.
CrossRiverWatch discovered that the purchased materials were quite in short supply as only a bucket tap was on display though staff claim the water was mixed with disinfectants.
The parents expressed mixed feelings as some are in support while others are against the levy and described the levy as pure “extortion”.
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