Deputy Education Minister for Instruction (DMI), Dr. Mator Kpangbai, says elementary and junior public schools are free of charge; except student identification card fee that should not exceed one hundred Liberian dollars and a parent-teacher association (PTA) fee that is determined by administration in consultation with parents. He says these fees are ‘voluntary’ and as such, should not be a pre-condition for students’ registration or sitting in classes.
According to Dr. Kpangbai, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) fee of a little over one thousand Liberian dollars (L$1,000.00) for each 9th grader in public school is paid by Government.
In an interview with journalists Thursday, at the close of a Ministry of Education three-day Joint Education Sector Review, held at the Golden Gate Hotel in Paynesville, Dr. Kpangbai indicated that only senior high students (10-12 graders) are required to pay six hundred Liberian dollars (L$600.00) each and a West African Examinations Council (WAEC) fee of one thousand eight hundred and fifty Liberian dollars (L$1,850.00) for each 12 grader.
The Deputy Education Minister warned all school administrators against collecting any fees that are not prescribed by the Ministry of Education, adding, “We will dismiss any principal or school administrator who is engaged in such acts.”
There are public outcries over alarming tuition increase in schools including public institutions, with reports that some schools, especially private institutions, have doubled and tripled their previous fees while others are demanding more than a 50% down payment as pre-condition before students begin classes.
The situation has raised serious concerns with finger pointing to the Ministry of Education as failing to manage and control the education system, which falls under its jurisdiction.
The reported fees hike in school comes at the time when government is preaching what it call “free and compulsory primary school.” But the free school, according to critics, is turning to be fiasco.
In reaction, Dr. Kpangbai told journalists that there are ongoing investigations in collaboration with county school authorities including education officers (EOs), and anyone caught increasing fees will be penalized according to law. He however failed to name the penalty (penalties) for any school involved in hiking fees.
All school administrators, Dr. Kpangbai revealed, have been asked to submit their requirement sheets to the Ministry, through county education officers (CEOs) in order for the administrators and the Ministry to consult on how best the issue can be addressed.
He then used the opportunity to declare that ‘nobody pays more than 50% as pre-condition for student to sit in class,; and further called on the public to inform the Ministry in case of this and other illegal acts by any school administrators.
At the same time, Dr. Kpangbai said they were investigating reports that some schools were collecting insurance fees from students or through whatever means.
With barely two weeks to the opening of school, critical thinkers are expressing doubts that the Ministry was going to address the situation in a short time as many schools have already declared registration late, for which fees are being charged.
Against this backdrop, analysts are of the conviction that school enrolment was under threats, and may likely drop this academic year; something they said is counter-productive to efforts by donors in encouraging Liberian children.
Be as it may, the situation has claimed the attention of lawmakers, who are seeking explanation from authorities at the Education Ministry. It was reported Thursday that the lawmakers were inviting Education Minister Etmonia Tarpeh to appear before them to give reason for the reported hike in tuition in Liberia.