Education: Either free or not

15 January 2020 | Opinion

School starts today, in the middle of what is dubbed the most challenging month of any year, when pockets are dry like a bone.

The huff and puff of securing school placements for kids aside, today presents a different challenge for many parents, who are still absorbing the long list of stationery presented to them by public schools.

Public schools, almost all of them, have pulled out their begging bowls, into which communities are asked to donate. This is a sad but proactive approach by schools that were promised consistent subsidies by government after the introduction of the free education regime. They have since learnt that free education is a myth to win political plaudits and feed the world a fake impression that we are leading Africa in this respect. Absolute bollocks!

State funding has not been reaching schools as promised, prompting teachers to become creative beggars who bombard parents with requests for donations every other week. Instead of focusing on teaching, schools are forced to become enterprises of braai’ing meat, selling soft drinks and hosting fundraising events. Civvies days, a term used to describe allowing learners to come to school without uniform for a fee, have become regular occurrences that compromise the pride and identities of these schools.

With unemployment on the rise, parents are already struggling to keep up with their regular bills, and now they have to cough up even more to keep their kids’ schools afloat. Free education is a political lie that must exposed. When seeking votes, politicians scream on the top of their lungs about free education that doesn’t exist. Free education must mean that the state is the provider of basic necessities at schools, not parents. If the state cannot fulfil that obligation, it must concede this and be open about it, instead of selling the nation pipe dreams. Education in public schools has generally been very cheap – even for the common man. But to scrap the School Development Fund regime, only to exacerbate the cost through donations, is deception on a grand scale.