By Emmanuel Paragon Mbong
The Supervisor for Education in Eket Local Government Area, Prince Ubong Etukudo yesterday undertook a fact finding visit to the first post primary institution in Eket founded in 1962
His surprise visit came on the heels of several complaints from different quarters on alledged illegal charges and extortion being perpetrated by the school authority which was becoming unbearable for the parents and guardians to cope with, in these hard times.
Accompanying the youthful, hard working and ebullient Supervisor on the visit were youth leaders and stakeholders of the host communities
. The Okon Clan Youth President, Comrade Vincent Henry led the Youth Presidents of Ikot Ataku and Akpandem, Akparawa Patrick Ekwere and Mfon Peter respectively as well as Akparawa Ubokudom Cyril, the former image maker of Okon Youth Council. An NUT official from Eket and seasoned media practitioners were also, on the entourage.
Receiving the delegation in her office, Mrs Eno Etukudo Ese listed the various challenges affecting the school to include perimeter fencing, functional library, photocopying machine, theft and vandalisation of school properties owing to the porous nature of the school, lack of a cook to take charge of the boarding house among others.
She even buttressed her fact by saying that, as a Vice Principal of the same school for a period of six years, before her elevation to the plum seat and again reposted to the school as a helmswoman on 11th November, 2018, she was already on a familiar terrain, and has been trying her best in moving the school to the next level.
Then came the bombshell from the erudite Education Supervisor, who minced no words in hitting the nail on the head. He told the female principal that he was on an independent and fact finding visit to know of various charges in the school, because of rumours making the rounds that some final year students are on the verge of missing out from the ongoing SSCE registration because of their inability to pay these other sundry charges, thereby putting their future in jeopardy.
It was at this juncture that the cookies began to crumble as both the Principal and his able Vice, Mr Enobong Ntuen tried to explain the financial transactions and goings on in the school, to the bewilderment of the visitors, who wondered aloud if education is indeed free in Akwa Ibom State as they are always made to believe.
According to the Principal, the charges approved by ANCOPPS, Eket Chapter , an association of school principals ,made up of twelve secondary schools within the vicinity are
Thumbprinting for both SS 2 and SS 3 students #1500
Compulsory Lesson Fees for the SS3 students #2000 that takes place after the official school hours in the afternoon.
The school also collects a PTA levy of #1000 per child in a session and the amount collected so far is being used for erecting perimeter fencing around the school premises which is still ongoing.
She further said that, she even used her discretion to abolish the #1000 sessional Computer fees, per child, earlier paid for its maintenance .
Responding, Prince Ubong Etukudo advised her to thread with caution in the way and manner she is enforcing some of these payments from the students, due to exigencies of the hard times.
The Education Supervisor frowned at the habit of tying all these sundry charges with the SSCE registration and maintained that the government will not take it kindly with any school administrator , no matter how highly placed, if at the end, some students are debarred from registering for their final examinations , because they couldn’t afford these other sundry charges.
He urged the school management to always adopt a carrot and stick approach in forcing down some of the school financial policies down the throat of these students.
He advised that rather than threatening them to pay up forcefully , persuasive approach should be carefully adopted, to avoid most of the recalcitrant ones using this as an excuse to perpetuate their nefarious activities, which, at the long run, will not augur well for the image of the school.
The Supervisor for Education and his entourage were later conducted round the school by the Principal and his vice to see things for themselves.