Govt spends N$127m a year on church schools
29 June 2020 | Education
While most private schools rely on tuition fees to pay staff salaries, church schools are subsidised by the state and drain government coffers of N$127 million a year.
In an interview with Namibian Sun last week, education ministry executive director Sanet Steenkamp confirmed this figure, saying the arrangement emanates from a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between qualifying private church schools and government that dates back to independence in 1990.
Steenkamp made the remarks in response to enquiries about the state of private schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
This is after some private schools reportedly informed parents that they must pay full tuition fees, despite learners being home-schooled.
While some parents have been hit by salary cuts, and others have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, they are required to pay full tuition fees or risk losing their child's place at school, Namibian Sun has learnt.
Earlier this year, government announced an N$8.1 billion stimulus package to combat the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The finance ministry and the Social Security Commission (SSC) are also implementing a wage subsidy programme, with the ministry making available N$400 million and the SSC N$253 million to the scheme. However, it is still unclear whether private schools will benefit in any way, having so far only received fabric face masks.
Many of the principals Namibian Sun spoke to said they feel left out and are waiting for government to assist them.
“We heard of the stimulus package but thus far, only government schools are prioritised. Their teachers are getting full salaries while we had to cut our teachers' and other staff salaries. We are cutting costs because not all parents are paying their children's fees. There are those who understand, but the bills are still on the rise and we have to improvise,” a principal, who preferred to remain anonymous, said.
Another principal in the Kavango East Region said they had two meetings with the ministry and were told that there is no money for them.
Steenkamp said the ministry acknowledges the cries of private schools, however, there is no budget to assist them.
“Let me put it to you like this: We all want to do that, but there is no budget,” she said.
“There was also no additional budget allocated for that and we don't want to instil an expectation, but these are ongoing discussions that must continue between the ministries. We acknowledge the difficulties and challenges the private schools are going through and that is why we call on other stakeholders and the parents to continue with the commitment they have made,” Steenkamp said.
She added that while government has not assisted private schools during the pandemic, there are a number of notable contributions it has made.
This includes contributions towards rented church premises and community and private hostels.