(By Iheanyi Ezinwo) – The widely publicised suspension of the Principal of Government Girls (Junior) Secondary School, Rumuokuta, in the Obio/ Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State is still attracting mixed reactions. While some citizens, who spoke with Notable Outcome in Port Harcourt were pleased with the sanction, which according to them will serve as a deterrent to other school heads who are engaged in extortion, another set of respondents accused the Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Prince Chinedu Nmom, of being on a revenge mission.
Notable Outcome gathered that the commissioner’s wife, who works under the Principal was queried for dereliction to duty because of a competing commitment elsewhere, which, in the opinion of the principal at the time, was affecting her performance in school.
Notable Outcome was told that the Honourable Commissioner, obstensibly looking for an opportunity to get back at the principal, after his visit to the school had to personally issue the principal a query, and then, a suspension letter that were personally signed by him, actions that Notable Outcome was told were against civil service rules. The reason, Notable Outcome gathered was that, the Ministry of Education was not expected to engage in or interfere with the daily administration of teaching personnel of the Universal Basic Education Board.
That the Commissioner merely copied the Executive Chairman of the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board, instead of reporting any infraction to the Board Chairman for action.
Notable Outcome further gathered that the principal had approval in writing to collect School Management Support money from the parents to print examination papers, and that nobody expected her to use her salary run the school.
We also gathered that the action of the commissioner was a display of social and administrative discourtesy to the Board Chairman, and that all his actions were in breach of public service operations as it was beyond his powers to personally discipline Board personnel.
Indeed, it was suggested that, in personally taking up the discipline of a staff, the Commissioner had indirectly told the Board Chairman that he was incompetent to manage his affairs.
The attention of Notable Outcome was drawn to a subsisting Supreme Court judgment which quashed the decision by a Governor who purported to sack a civil servant, instead of letting the Civil Service Commission take action on a disciplinary matter.
In the circumstance, we were told that the suspended principal has the option of appealing to the Head of Service of Rivers State for administrative redress, and where this fails, she has another option of sending a petition to the State Governor, to the Public Complaints Commission, enlist the support of the International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), or even approach the courts.
Meanwhile, in his reaction, the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Prof. Prince Chinedu Nmom, said that there was no evidence any where to show that his wife was sanctioned by the principal or anybody for that matter as alleged.
He further explained that on assumption of duty, he had a meeting with all principals where he advised against collection of unauthorised levies from the students, and warning that violators shall be punished.
Speaking further in a telephone interview with the Publisher of Notable Outcome, Iheanyi Ezinwo, Prof. Chinedu Nmom said that he was constrained to visit the school when a parent called that his child, who had contributed the 1,500 Naira approved by the Parents Teacher’s Association was not allowed to write the examination because she was unable to pay the additional 500 Naira which was demanded by the principal for fullscap sheets.
The Commissioner recalled how students who came with their own full scap sheets were not allowed to sit for the examination unless they buy the one that is sold and stamped by the principal, and that when he summoned the two principals, that of the senior secondary responded to explain the issues to him but that the principal of the Juniour Secondary School refused to see him.
Prof. Nmom stressed that the principal was not suspended for collecting money as approved by the PTA, because the seniour principal also collected and was not suspended, but that Junior School principal was sanctioned for collecting additional 500 Naira and for making it mandatory for all, while preventing students who were unable to pay from sitting for the examinations.