Parents, bursars, students, and even mobile money operators have said the initiative introduced this academic year by the Minister of Secondary Education wherein, school fees would be paid through the mobile money component of some telecommunication companies and financial institutions in the country, is not working. They complained recently to this reporter in Buea when she set out to know how this method of school fees payment dubbed as advanced is working.
The innovation was meant to reduce the rate of bribery, corruption and fraud to its barest minimum in colleges nationwide. While the deal seems to be working to a considerable extent in some parts of the country, schools in the Southwest Region are yet to fully understand, accept and utilize the system effectively.
Going by the bursar of one of the Government Technical High Schools in Fako Division, who refused to be named, the challenges are enormous and they have resorted to the old method of fees payment whereby, parents and students pay money handy. She said the system is not only complicated but strenuous for parents, especially those that are not literate as they have to look for someone to help them follow the procedure using their mobile phones. She said the fact that Parents Teachers Associations, PTAs, is paid to the school through bursars and the rest through mobile money is enough discomfort for the payers, which many of them have said they cannot support.
She added that the process is not just tedious but risked thievery as she explained. “A few months back, some two girls and a boy came to our school and introduced themselves as agents of one of the telecommunication companies. They said they were being sent by their manager to establish a base in our campus so that parents would not have to be moving up and down just to pay fees.
“We said it was good, but asked that they present an authorization from the manager authenticating their mission. As we speak, those three left and till date we never saw them again. You see that they wanted to dupe us.”
The bursar regretted the fact that the announcement of mobile money mode of school fees payment rendered the school coffers empty for a long period of time. She said it was because they had no budget from the ministry nor were they allowed to collect fees. She stated, “…there was a time when there was no chalk. The school administrative staff had to provide, a alongside other teaching and learning necessities.” The Bursar however appealed that, the Ministry should help them elaborate on how the whole process works for efficiency because, ever since it was announced, beside mobile phones that were given them to ease their job; no accompanying text has been provided.
John Mbua, a parent, does not understand anything about the procedure because nobody has drilled them on how to go about it. “I have paid my children’s school fees the same way I used to do before. I didn’t even waste my time going to pay through any mobile money because I have no knowledge on how the thing works. When the Government is serious about the mobile money method, it will educate us on how it works and we will use it,” he averred.
Anu Justice, a student in GHS Bokwoango, says he knows little or nothing about the mobile money method of payment. He said he just went straight to the bursar’s office and paid his fees without any complications.
Mobile money operators on their part have said the process has not boosted their business as they thought it would since parents are not making use of their services in paying school fees as expected. The people have therefore proposed that for the innovation to be accepted and used in this part of the country, there should be enough sensitization, especially in rural areas where most parents and guardians are not very literate.
By Nester Asonganyi