THE deputy minister of education, David Namwandi, yesterday issued a stern warning to primary school principals in the country still insisting on parents paying school fees for their children to take heed of the government directive that education for grades zero to seven is free.
Namwandi said any principal found to be charging parents of children in State primary schools would be dealt with by the law.
"I hear there are those saying the government has made a U-turn and that primary schools should charge school fees. Just to let you know, we don't have the word 'U-turn' in our vocabulary. School principals should respect the government directive that primary school education is free. We don't make jokes when we make statements of this nature to the public. Parents are not to pay for any school fees or stationery as it will be taken care of by government," Namwandi said.
He said if there are parents who wish to donate money to schools, they are not prohibited from doing so, but it should be out of their own free will and not because they are compelled to do so.
"Schools should refund the money of those parents who had already paid school fees before government made the announcement about free education. That money should go back to the parents. Those are government schools and no one should charge anything the government has declared free," he said.
Some SMSes sent to The Namibian yesterday by concerned parents and members of the public suggested that there are still some primary schools charging school fees.
An SMS by one reader states: "Free education but new fees were introduced at Elim Primary School as follows: reproduction fee (N$100), security fee (N$50), maintenance fee (N$50) and ICT fee (N$180). Added together it is N$380 only N$20 less than the old School Development Fund of N$400."
Yet another SMS reads: "Eros Primary school is one of the schools which demand these so-called donations from parents. I went there last week and was told that my two girls got places at that school, grades 3 and 5, and must apparently pay school fees. After failing to pay, all off a sudden there was no more space for them, I was turned away straight by the lady in charge! The ministry should look into this matter."
According to Namwandi, those principals making themselves guilty of charging parents school fees would be dealth with.
"I tell you now that whoever is not adhering to the directive will be taken action against," he said.
Namwandi said his ministry would start dispatching money to the regions this week, adding that the ministry had mechanisms in place to control how money would be spent at the different schools.
"I don't want different interpretations, there is only one interpretation and that is universal free education," he said.