Recently, the video of the innocently expressed disgust of a little primary school girl in Delta State, named Success went viral as she condemned her teachers and school for unfairly punishing her and sending her away from class for failure to pay tuition fees. EZEDINUGWU NKIRUKA probes the trend of punishing children for such developments. She writes:
THE idea behind punishing children for their parents’ inability to pay their school fees is yet to be understood. This is the norm in most Nigerian schools and more often than not, school children are not just sent away from schools, but flogged as well.
For this, Okotie-Eboh Primary School 1, in Sapele Local Government Area of Delta State has been in the eye of the storm for over one week now. From this school, the viral video of a young girl showing preference to being caned to being sent home for owing school fees was recorded and has generated various reactions.
Aside the philanthropic gestures extended to the girl, this had particularly brought concerns to the recurring situation where children are punished over their parents’ inability to pay school fees.
Success! That is the name of the girl in that viral video who wanted to remain in school at all cost, even if it meant flogging her for owing school fees. Based on the content of the video that had now attracted the about six year old girl philanthropic gestures of voluntary scholarship fund donations and visits by government officials, she felt that there was no need sending her home since “she” would eventually pay up the school fees owed.
While many people applauded the girl for her boldness and wittiness in expressing herself as well as her sheer display of determination to get educated, I personally felt disgust and anger at the manner in which most school authorities chose to humiliate and shame children over their parents’ inability to pay their fees.
I’ve often wondered before now why school authorities flog students whose parents are unable to pay their school fees or other levies early enough as if it is their own faults. What points are the school authorities trying to prove? Embarrass their parents or damage the kids self esteem by making them laughing stock amongst their peers?
Of what use is this act exactly? Or do they flog or send them home so their parents can feel bad and embarrassed till they find the money right? What is the child’s offense? I kept on wondering. Do they have a source of livelihood? Why do they have to suffer? Did they ask anyone to conceive and give birth to them?
It has been happening from time immemorial and I think it’s time we rise against it. Why dehumanize them? Why embarrass them? Why flog them when they clearly can’t work to afford the school fees? It is understood that schools need money.
It is also understood that some of these schools are not government owned and need funding to stay open but this is shameful. We must do something about it.
What happened to dialogue with the parents? What happened to working out a payment plan? This young princess is one of the leaders of tomorrow and her bravery and enthusiasm broke me that I should encourage them to nurture her and not break her down. Even if we find her confidence funny, her self esteem is being bruised by the school authorities who believe they have to flog her because her parents can’t pay them to teach her. It is sad.
The matter can even be worse when you even consider the safety of the child. Because the children are always sent home when their parents are out for work and businesses, one can easily ask, who are they going home to? Who will stay with them?
Who will take care of them and attend to their needs? That is why most children, after being driven away from school, would go to hide somewhere and return home after school hours. During this time, anything can happen to these children.
Sending children home for non-payment of school fees and other levies can also affect them psychologically. Some kids that are not psychologically balanced can feel discriminated against. There is also the tendency that other children would make fun of them thereafter and that will not be good for the child’s psyche.
Few schools that even allow the children to stay and write the exams but would seize the results and would not release the results until the parents clear their debts are even commendable.
School authorities should always remind the parent of the kids about all the school levies by calling and texting them. If they fail to pay, seize their results, even if they want to change school, the new school must likely ask for the previous result, so either way, they must come back.
Speaking on the issue, Mr Ikenwa Ngozika, a mother and a civil servant said, “the focus of education should be centred on the child and should not be centred on the school or school owners. Whatever is going to jeopardize the interest of the child should be discouraged. Without pupils, schools cannot continue to exist.
So, it is important that all stakeholders do their parts towards protecting the interests of the children irrespective of the schools they attend. There is need for a policy that will direct the punishment of non-payment or late payment of school levies to parents and not the innocent kids, since it is not the children’s responsibility to pay school fees”.
Mr Innocent Okwegba, in his own contribution said “school fees is never an emergency. It is something that every parent that has any child in school know that he/she must do. So, I wonder why parents will not always add this in their budget to avoid this embarrassment. This calls for families setting their priorities right and straight. School fees should be at the top of the list.
Again, parents who cannot afford private school fees should opt for good public schools, just to avoid this embarrassment of non or late payment of school levies. Again, the school authorities should try to give the defaulting parents some time to sort themselves out.