11 January 2018

Namibia: 'We Have No Choice' - School Principals

Ongwediva/Windhoek — Educators at various government schools insist they have no choice but to ask parents to fork out money towards the education of their children as they have not received a cent towards the universal primary education (UPE) fund, or stationery, as promised by the government.

Towards the end of last year many schools countrywide issued a list of stationery that should be brought to school by children at the beginning of the 2018 academic year.

It included notebooks, mathematics sets, pens and pencils and photocopy printing paper, which are normally provided by the government. Some parents were also asked to buy toilet paper for their children.

"Last year, no school received a cent for the universal primary education (UPE) fund in the whole of Oshikoto Region.

"We normally receive N$500 per child - then we were told that would be cut to N$250 per learner. Then later we were informed that we will only receive N$100 per child, but the year eventually ended with no cent received from government. So what choice do we have? Sit down and wait on government? Our children need education," explained one school principal that requested anonymity.

New Era yesterday established that high schools such as Ella Du Plessis, Augustenium and Khomastura, all in the Khomas Region, had requested parents to pay a monetary contribution of up to N$800 before registration of learners would commerce.

Parents at Ella Du Plessis are forking out N$800 while at both Khomastura and Augustenium parents are asked to pay N$500 or more. This excludes a list of stationery to the value of N$500. Primary schools in Katutura such as Berthold Himumuine, Theo Katjimune and Auas request N$300, while at Charles Anderson in Ongwediva in Oshana Region parents are asked to pay N$250 as registration fee and for chairs.

A mother of a Grade 6 learner at Oshakati West Primary School was caught by surprise when her son came home with a long list of stationery and a request for money for toilet paper.

"Of course they wrote somewhere on the list that the list was not compulsory, but what are the consequences if one omits an item from the list? Who will buy the missing items?" asked one of the parents.

But the regional education director for Oshana Region, Hileni Amukana, said education is a collective responsibility and parents should be willing to contribute in any form necessary when they are asked to do so by the school.

Amukana maintained that the lists given to the parents were not compulsory and parents were free to inform the schools where and when they cannot afford to pay.

According to her, the region only received the financial warrantee certificate towards the end of the year, thus stationery could not be procured on time.

"But most textbooks have already been delivered at schools as from the end of December 2017, and as we speak more textbooks and stationery are being packed and delivered to schools," she said.

Khomas regional education acting director Steve Kaangundue yesterday said the money being paid is an agreement between parents and school boards.

He said if any of the parents feel that they are forced to pay such fees they are free to contact his office.

"By law, no parents should be forced to pay school fees or even registration fees," he said.

Kaangundue says currently they are facing financial difficulties and some school boards have the idea of asking voluntary contributions from parents.

"This is not compulsory and parents should not be forced to pay," said Kaangundue.

Oshikoto education regional director Lamek Kafidi however said it was wrong for school principals to want contributions from the parents - especially now when parents are competing for space for their children at government schools.

"They are saying it is not compulsory - yet parents are slapped with school fees as one of the conditions to have a child admitted in school.

"The minister and the permanent secretary are on record that parents should not pay school fees," he said.

Kafidi added that all schools in Oshikoto received the UPE funds towards the end of last year and the ministry was looking for further possibilities to give more funding.


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