Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Francis Ban Kaifala, has in a press release, warned school authorities in the country to desist from extorting money as well as receiving bribes from parents through various means.
The Commission says that it has received several complaints from the public about school authorities engaging in extortion of monies from pupils, parents, and guardians before pupils can receive their exam results or be accepted into a school as a new student.
“The Commission wishes to remind teachers and school authorities that receiving an advantage, whether solicited or not, is a crime under the Anti-Corruption Act 2008. Any teacher or school authority caught in the practice, and cannot provide policy justification, will be seriously dealt with in accordance with the law,” the Commission’s statement reads.
The Commissioner said there are other dodgy schemes which parents and guardians have complained about yet they are powerless to stop, such as the unnecessary and unlawful requirement for school children to forcibly take part in so-called graduation ceremonies. Parents are charged thousands of Leones for graduation gowns, new shoes, and of course the cash in brown envelopes as ‘thank you’ or ‘handshakes’ for teachers.
“These graduation ceremonies for children as young as 5 years old, costing tens of thousands of Leones are not part of the official school curriculum requirements. But the government is turning a blind eye, as school authorities extort monies from poor hapless parents” he said.
According to the press release, there are several cases where children are not given their results or grades because they did not take their brown envelopes with them to the school authorities.
“These corrupt practices are causing enormous hardship for patents, despite the government ‘s efforts in ensuring the success of its Free Quality Education Programme” the release states.
The high cost of living for ordinary Sierra Leoneans caused by inflation and poor exchange rates, is of serious concern to the government. Any additional costs imposed on parents by schools can only compound the economic hardship for them.
“I was approached by a lady seeking a loan for 50,000 Leones she said she needed to collect her son’s exams results. Another lady came to see me early in the morning seeking help to buy her daughter’s nursery graduation gown,” a local money lender told NewsWatch.
On the other hand, a number of teachers have referred to the press release as a mere witch-hunt meant to disrespect teachers and geared towards damaging the age-old practice of graduation of students, which they said has a lot more benefit for the pupils who experience it than the mere reference to material things cited in the ACC Press release.