TODAY schools have opened and quite a number of pupils are stressed – not by the idea of writing many pages of notes, clashes with teachers and school authorities or the long hours of study, sports and manual punishments but by the fact that their parents have not yet paid school fees or bought their uniforms to enable them to go to school like other children.
There are students who shiver at the idea of entering into a new school term not because they detest school or hate the laborious duties associated with school but because they wonder if they will be allowed into the school yard on a day like today.
Failure by parents to pay school fees before schools open has seen many students abhor opening school and suffer psychologically as a result of the stigmatization that they are forced to succumb to by their parents, school authorities and even fellow students.
Primarily the blame should fall on parents for putting their children in difficult circumstances by not paying school fees in time.
However, the culture of trying to force parents to pay fees in most schools is targeted at the students and not their parents. And more often than not, the methods used to enforce payment are directed at students and seek to stigmatise, even humiliate the affected scholars.
Chances are these students are made to remain behind after assembly or some school official goes round the school asking all students who have not settled their fees to go to the headmaster’s office or some central place for what other students will call ‘poor’ students.
That is unfortunate for a number of reasons. For starters, it is never the student’s responsibility to pay school fees and when there is a shortfall or non-payment of the fees, school heads or other authorities must contact and deal with the affected student’s parents.
The whole idea behind wearing uniforms at school is to hide the different backgrounds that students come from; it is to make students feel equal be it economically, socially or intellectually. Once a school begins to demarcate students on the basis of their parents’ ability to pay fees, it has lost the whole purpose behind the idea of making scholars feel equal.
It is very easy for school authorities to contact parents directly through phone calls or even texts if the former is costly. A simple text reading, “Dear Mr So and So, Your child’s fees have not been paid. Please come and see the head on the matter before the end of the week,” could save many students from feeling poor amongst their peers.
The psychological effects of a parent’s failure to pay fees on a student are grave and may even affect them academically and socially.
School authorities should therefore see to it that the burden of paying fees is felt only by parents as schools open today.