Thousands of standard six students this morning sat their secondary entrance exams.

This is amidst claims that they would be badly affected by the government's failure so far to pay all schools throughout the country the free education grants since schools started on the 13th July 2009.

A group of school principals have told the National Express that in the past, it was easier to prepare for the next school term when schools were free to collect school fees which schools used to purchase their needs at the start of each term.

"We now depend entirely on the free education grants because we would be severely punished if we collect school fees from parents and when no school grant has been paid up until now, it badly affected primary schools throughout the country but moreso students who are sitting the exams now," a school principal said.

Another Principal said that the CNURA Government policy is an ambitious policy and one that is welcomed by thousands of parents throughout the country.

He however stressed that the responsibility is on the government to make sure that the money gets to the schools especially when it is the Taiwanese Government that provides the funding.

"It is common knowledge that most donor assistance does not get to the majority of the people in this country and who live in the rural areas. But at least the government must ensure this one form of support gets to the rural areas bearing in mind that over the years thousands of children have missed out on their education, simply because their parents could not pay for their school fees," one of the principals told the Express.

"I don't know which is worse. Knowing that you cannot send your child to school because you cannot afford to or being promised and then find out that you have been let down," he said.

The group of principals told the Express that if some schools are not entitled to get any free education grant because they have not submitted their financial reports, then the principals are totally responsible for what their students are facing.

But the principals interviewed by the Express argued that it is not fair for schools that have submitted their financial reports in time to be punished if this is the reason why the education grant is being held up.

The Taiwanese Ambassador George Chan officially released the second payment of SBD$ 2.5 million to the "Basic Free Education Project" to the Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua, on 15th of July 2009. The Minister of Education and Human Resources Development Mathew Wale also witnessed the ceremony.

Ambassador Chan told Prime Minister during the handing over ceremony that education and human resources development are top priority areas for any government as they are keys to a national economic growth.

In response, Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua expressed sincere gratitude and appreciation for the Government of Taiwan's continuing support adding that it will go a long way in contributing to the development of Solomon Islands human resources.

During the ceremony, Mr. Wale sent out a clear warning to primary school principals, school board and managements that fee collection is illegal and failure to comply with this warning may resulted in these schools serving disciplinary action by the government.

Minister Wale said school principal, board and managements should not collected fees from junior students who are attending basic primary schools.

He said this is illegal and therefore those found to have charged fees to these students may faces disciplinary action because they (schools) are receiving annual educational grants from them.

Minister Wale said the fee free basic education policy is a government initiative therefore schools charging fees to these children is expected, not to happen.

He said school Principals, board and managements found to charges fees to these students will be penalized by their government and subsequently receive no funding from them.

The Express was unable to get any comments from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance on the issue when it went to press last night.

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