Free education’ a burden
Children receive free education, but the financial strains continue when parents have to purchase stationery and other items.
22 January 2019 | Education
In December 2012 free primary education was introduced in Namibia, in accordance with article 20 of the Namibian Constitution on free and compulsory primary education.
The constitution of Namibia under article 20 states and mandates that all persons shall have the right to education, primary education shall be compulsory and that the state shall provide reasonable facilities to render effective this right for every resident within Namibia, by establishing and maintaining state schools at which primary education will be provided free.
Children should not be allowed to leave school until they have completed their primary education or have attained the age of 16 years, whichever occurs sooner, unless this happens on the grounds of health or other considerations pertaining to the public interest.
Four years later, from 2016, all state secondary schools in the country started to offer free education.
Despite this so-called free education some parents and teachers have spoken of a financial strain, when interviewed by The Zone.
Kambala Thomas, who is a parent to a grade 7 learner at Onanghonda Combined School, said his child receives education without the need to pay school fees.
“My child has been receiving free education ever since 2015 with no registration fees asked for,” he said.
Thomas, however, added there are a number of items that his child uses for school activities.
Thomas said he has to pay a school contribution fee, but this is not expensive and is put to good use.
He said the amount he spends on stationery depends on the number of items on the school list.
“Since we don't pay school fees it’s not an issue buying stationery, plus buying stationery should be something all parents should budget and plan for, before leaving for the holidays; especially knowing that you have children to send to school,” he said.
A Khomas parent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she pays fees to the school, including a transport fee for her child.
She said the stationery list is fair, since she only buys a certain amount of items and some others, like books, the child receives at the school. She, however, does not need to pay a contribution fee because the amount the parents pay for fees covers the school maintenance costs.
Another parent argued that the items his child takes to school are unnecessary, as they hardly get to use them.
He said his child is asked to take things like air freshener, Handy Andy and soap, but when you visit the school the toilets are not tidy.
“There is hardly toilet paper in their bathrooms, but children are expected to bring them,” he said.
Ndamononghenda Hangula, a teacher at Onaanda Combined School in the Omusati Region, said some of the items the learners have to bring to school are way too expensive, compared to the ones government used to provide.
Some schools ask for a certain amount to cater for the learner's stationary and this amount also differs from school to school.
She added that not all the items learners bring are used to their advantage.
Hangula said the school cannot afford to cater for all the learning materials, such as textbooks, which are a concern.
“I have a class of 40 learners and only three textbooks are available and in that situation the teaching and learning process cannot go smoothly. This is especially so in rural areas where there is only one computer at the school and learners cannot do their homework, due to lack of textbooks and no access to internet,” she said.
Hangula added that the education system today is not fulfilling its aims, but is rather putting children into the streets.
She said often grade 9 and 10 failures are left with no option but to drift into the streets.
“Although the grade 9 learners who did not make it are transferred to grade 10, there are not enough classrooms at schools with grade 10. The new curriculum thus leads to learners travelling long distances of close to 20km to and from school and they have to be in class by 06:30. By the time a learner reaches school he or she is tired and not in the mood for learning, thus making them vulnerable to failure,’’ she said.
This is a typical grade 1 stationery list for a government school:
· Beginners pencil (jumbo) x2
· Colour pencils x2
· Scissors x1
· Thick wax crayons x2
· Rolls of thick plastic x3
· Mondi rota trim 500 copy paper x3
· Large Pritt x1
· Sharpener x1
· 2 litre ice cream container with child’s name x1
· Retractable wax crayons x3
· Flip file x1
· HB pencils x10
· Thin wax crayons x2
· Thin cellotape x1
· Ponal wood glue x1
· Skipping rope x1