19 September 2018

Namibia: Govt Gets Tough With Principals, Teachers

PRINCIPALS and teachers at state-owned schools will be punished for withholding pupils' report cards or statements of results if parents fail to make voluntary contributions.

This is according to the draft education bill that was tabled in the National Assembly by minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa last week.

The bill aims to promote and regulate free and compulsory primary education; ensure equitable, inclusive quality education and life-long learning; as well as protect pupils' right to education.

Although parents are requested to make financial contributions to schools, the proposed bill states that pupils should not be victimised or deprived of their school reports, or from participating in various school programmes because their parents failed to make such contributions.

The proposed legislation also criminalises the withholding of pupils' report cards or statement of results by principals or any other person, because of the non-payment of contributions.

Those principals and teachers found to be in contravention of the act will be liable to a fine not exceeding N$5 000, or a 12-month jail term.

Apart from the fine and jail terms, disciplinary action in line with the Public Service Act will also be taken against principals and teachers who withhold report cards, the draft bill says.

The draft furthermore prohibits the payment of tuition and examination or any other fees other than hostel fees for children at state schools.

"A person may not victimise a learner in any manner, including suspension from classes, verbal or non-verbal abuse, denial of access to cultural, sporting or social activities of the school, access to the school-feeding programme, a school report or transfer certificate because of the non-payment of voluntary parental contributions by his or her parents," reads the proposed law.

The draft bill comes at a time when some schools in the country have been asking parents to make contributions for several developments and material acquisitions because of limited funds received from the education ministry.

The Namibian reported last year that some schools, among them Windhoek Technical High School, Jan Möhr High School and Hillside Primary School had withheld pupils' report cards because parents did not pay the "pledges for voluntary school fees, outstanding raffle tickets and lost textbooks".

Parents were asked to pay anything between N$1 000 and N$2 500 as a "voluntary contribution" to the school before receiving their children's report cards.

Schools collect money from parents to pay for renovations and other maintenance, as well as materials such as books.

Although the education ministry received N$250 million for free education last year, The Namibian reported that the government needed more than N$300 million per year to implement free education effectively.

The secondary education grant to schools countrywide last year was only N$250 per pupil.

For primary schools, the government provided N$250 per pupil, plus another N$250 meant for the school-feeding programme.

Khomas regional director of education Gerard Vries said the allocation from the government was not enough as "it does not make ends meet".

He said yesterday that he would only comment on the provision of parental contributions when the bill is approved.

State schools are instead allowed to establish school development funds through which they raise funds through fundraising campaigns or officially approved activities.

School boards are under the proposed legislation also allowed to open "one banking account", but would not be allowed to enter into "any loan or overdraft agreement to supplement the school's development fund".

The draft law added that school boards are, however, not allowed to collect money or contributions from parents to "circumvent or manipulate the payment of voluntary parental contributions".

The use of pupils to solicit funds from the public is also prohibited under the draft law.

The draft bill criminalises any school or individuals who discriminate against or prohibit a learner from admission at a school on racial, ethnic, sex, religious as well as socio-economic grounds.

Any person who contravenes this provision commits an offence, and is liable to a fine of N$20 000 or a jail term not exceeding two years, the draft law states.

If approved, the proposed legislation will allow for the establishment of a National Advisory Council on Education; regional education forums; the National Examination, Assessment and Certification Board; and the Teaching Service and the Education Development Fund.

Education permanent secretary Sanet Steenkamp declined to comment on the bill yesterday, saying she was out of office.

She, instead, said the bill will be discussed in the National Assembly today.

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