Schools Water Bills Shock

 Education Ministry steps in to prevent cutting of supply for 174 schools over non-payment of bills
16 Feb 2022 12:21
Schools Water Bills Shock

Several schools racked up $483,000 in unpaid water bills, it has been revealed.

The Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts came to the rescue of 174 schools, paid their water bills and avoided supply disconnection.

The arrears had been overdue for several years.

Minister responsible Premila Kumar said the outstanding arrears for water bills were for 87 Early Childhood Education schools, 70 Primary and 17 Secondary Schools that had accumulated over many years before the reopening of schools on January 4.

She said the ministry stepped in to pay the water bill arrears to ensure that water, being the basic need, was maintained before schools reopened.

She said these payments were being adjusted from the Free Education Grant payout.

“The Ministry did this to make sure that schools were operational and ready for students,” she said.

“To ensure that schools meet the COVID-19 Safe School Re-opening Protocol for the safety of our children, the ministry released a further 50 per cent grant to all schools for Term 3, 2021, despite the schools being closed.

Minister Kumar has clarified that the management of these schools would not be held accountable for the overdue bills, however the necessary adjustments would be made by the ministry on their Free Education Grants payout for this year.

“The Government has also ensured that ancillary staff wages and other operational costs, such as payment of utility bills and printing cost of worksheets are met during the periods schools were closed.

“The ministry continued to release timely grants to schools, despite false claims that grants are not being paid.”

She also said the ministry was allocated a Free Education Grant in the sum of $62 million in the current financial year, despite the pandemic.

“The Free Education Grant initiative was introduced by the FijiFirst Government in the year 2014 to provide accessibility to education for all eligible primary and secondary students,” the minister said.

“Since its inception, eight years ago, the Government has invested a total of $565 million in the form of Free Education Grant to 736 primary, 175 secondary and 870-plus ECE schools.”

The Government helps approximately 236,000 students annually through the ‘Free Education Grant’.



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