Parents urged to assist schools

24 January 2020 | Education

The education ministry is urging parents to assist schools in whatever way possible although basic education is free.

The ministry made the call while responding to a Namibian Sun article about parents complaining that the free education government had introduced was a myth.

It said compulsory parental financial contributions towards the School Development Fund (SDF) at both primary and secondary schools were abolished following the introduction of the Universal Primary Education Grant (UPEG) and the Universal Secondary Education Grant (USEG) in 2013 and 2016.

“This, among others, remains as one of the notable achievement by the government of the Republic of Namibia,” said Absalom Absalom, the education ministry's spokesperson.

“The above grants are intended for providing resources required for the operation of schools. This includes textbooks and other learning materials, stationery, provision of additional classrooms and furniture.”

But Absalom said because of the ever-increasing cost of education parents are strongly encouraged to assist the schools in whatever form possible in order to enable them to meet the educational needs of the learners.

The ministry received nearly N$14 billion in the current 2019/20 financial year - a whopping 21% of the budget.

However, according to previous media reports 83% of its budget, or about N$11.5 billion, was set aside for the payment of personnel, and 5% for capital expenditure.

The ministry's other major expenses are hostel provision, the Namibia School Feeding Programme, utilities, stationery and cleaning materials.

Concerned parents are claiming that the current education system has forced some schools to beg for donations from the business community, while others have come up with backdoor policies to charge learners money through school contributions. This has reportedly forced some poor parents to keep their children at home because they are already struggling to provide for them.

Parents are saying government has abolished the practice of schools demanding money from parents for school development funds, and replaced it with a system of donation requests.

The education ministry took over the responsibility of funding schools with the universal education grants.

Per semester, primary schools were supposed to get N$300 per child, while secondary schools were supposed to get N$400 per learner from the ministry.

These funds were supposed to take care of learners' school needs such as exercise books, notebooks, pens and pencils, calculators and the like.

Where possible, study guides, photocopier paper and even cleaning materials and toilet paper and other classroom-related needs could be purchased from these government funds, while contributions from parents and caregivers were said to be voluntary.

However, schools are now providing learners with stationery lists, asking parents to purchase these items, a situation that is making education even more expensive than before.

ILENI NANDJATO

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