PADER–The administration at Oyuku Gala Primary School in Latanya Sub-county, there Pader District, seek won’t let a parent get away with not paying school fees. When the hide-and-seek fees game goes to the homestead, the authorities return with domestic catch.
Chicken, goats, ducks or even yams… anything goes to clearing fees at this community school.
In only its tenth year, the community school that can’t wait for the Government to fully take over its operations after its coding in 2016/17, has total enrollment of 415 pupils.
But for now, Oyuku Gala Primary School, like the eight other learning centres started by communities around Latanya, has not only continued to crawl under the chasm of inadequate teaching facilities but also the burden of parents failing to pay fees from time to time.
Although NGOs such as Action Aid continue to facilitate infrastructure of the community-founded learning centres by constructing classroom blocks and extending other amenities such as water sources, they cannot do much in getting parents to pay fees.
Boxed into a corner, Parents’ Teachers Association and administration resolved that teachers cannot continue going without pay just because some parents are unable to meet their end of the bargain, so parents who default on the Sh10,000 fees per term can pay with their goats or chicken. To enforce this unusual decision, authorities have to spend some good time chasing after fleeing domestic animals that are confiscated and sold off to cater fees.
Florence Apio, a parent with four children attending Oyuku Gala Primary School, said they are just typical parents whose only means of livelihood is subsistence farming.
Apio said the recent changes in climate has greatly hampered their farm output, making it difficult to produce enough for both feeding the family and selling some to raise fees.
“If we fail to pay fees, our goats or chicken is confiscated, creating a very difficult dilemma. I have four children at the school and before the farm produce is ready, I can’t pay fees and when my animals are being confiscated, there is additional fees which is paid to those conducting the exercise,” Apio said.
But Francis Olonyu, the head teacher, defended the practice, saying it helps the community school solve one of its major challenges: paying teachers. He said the decision was not made by the school but PTA members.
The Speaker of Pader District local government, Justine Ocen, said running a community school depends on parents because such learning centres are short of budget to finance activities.
Ocen said it’s only during the just-ended financial year 2016/2017 that Government coded the school, opening it to universal primary education.
He said authorities have since compiled statistics of the school for the District Education Officer to forward to Ministry of Education. The school is hoping that Government will soon take over the burden of paying teachers.