The Ministry of Education has warned head teachers against withholding students’ results over debts owed to schools or any other contentious issues.
Dr Célestin Ntivuguruzwa, the permanent secretary at the ministry, said any student who sat examinations should not be denied results due to outstanding dues of any nature, but urged schools to instead follow up on parents to meet their end of the bargain.
Ntivuguruzwa was reacting to reports that at least 50 per cent of the students at Groupe Scolaire Bihinga in Gatsibo District, walked home without report cards last Friday due to school feeding debts.
“I distributed school report cards to only 20 students in the class of more than 40 because the school withheld other reports over lunch fees debts,” a teacher who preferred anonymity for fear of retribution told The New Times.
Frederic Rutebuka, the Gasabo District Education Officer, said schools should devise ways of organising meetings with parents without withholding students’ results.
“There is no reason to withhold these results because students and their guardians need to review the results and plan together for future improvements. I am going to follow up on this GS Bihinga case,” he said.
Each student is required to contribute Rwf11,300 per term toward the school feeding programme. However, the majority did not clear the fees, according to Oliver Mbabazi, the head teacher.
“More than 900 students were supposed to contribute for school lunch but at least 50 per cent did not contribute the full amount,” the head teacher said but denied that students’ results were withheld over feeding fees.
“It is not because of the debts but because their parents did not come to school for a meeting and pick their children’s report cards as we had told them,” she said.
Mbabazi said parents often ignore the calls for a meeting and at the end of the academic year, the school makes it mandatory for every parent or guardian to pick the students’ results as a way to meet parents and discuss educational issues.
“The school closed the year with debts owed to food suppliers because the contributions were insufficient yet we also fed those who did not pay up. We identified 82 students as coming from vulnerable families but many other parents are reluctant to meet their obligations toward the programme,” she said.
However, some students claimed that they are forced to pay lunch fees even when one cannot have lunch at school for various reasons.
“They denied me a report card because I did not pay full contribution, yet I did not even eat the school food due to health reasons,” said a senior four student.
The government introduced the school feeding programme last year to provide lunch for day-scholars in 12-Year Basic Education to help them concentrate on studies and reduce dropout rate.
Under this programme, contributions are made by parents but a number of vulnerable families have since failed to pay contributions while some other parents are reluctant.
Dr Ntivuguruzwa said the Ministry of Education has received the figures of students who will be supported starting next year.
“We have informed District Education Officers on how to distribute the support to students who come from vulnerable families. Every vulnerable student will be supported with Rwf100 per day and that money will be cut from the government’s support to boarding students,” he said.