Namibia: Principals Say Stationery Grant Is Not Enough

PRINCIPALS of schools at Keetmanshoop in the //Kharas region say the stationery grant from the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture is not sufficient to cater to the needs of the pupils.

A report from the ministry on the procurement of stationery for the year 2021/2022 indicates the //Kharas region received N$1 795 275 to procure stationery in March last year. The ministry compiled the report because parents complained about the list of stationery they received annually, which the pupils are required to bring.

From this N$1 795 275, the report indicates //Kharasregion only spent N$170 438.93, showing underspending by 91%.

The region also receives the lowest amount of money compared to regions such as Ohangwena, Oshikoto, and Omusati, which are receiving N$5 million each, and Oshana, Kavango East, Khomas and Otjozondjupa regions receiving N$4 million each.

Tangeni Abed, the principal of Suiderlig Secondary School, says they received about N$66 000 to buy stationery for the pupils during March/April last year. He said the schools conduct a needs analysis, looking at the economic status of the pupils and submit these to the regional education directorate.

"Suiderlig has about 820 pupils. If you divide that N$66 000 by the 820 pupils, you get about N$80 per child. And just a hardcover A4 book of 120 pages costs you N$20. How many books can you buy per child, who has at least six subjects?" Abed asks.

Pieter Scholtz, the principal of Keetmans-hoop Primary School, says even the free education universal grant for pupils received from the ministry is inadequate. Scholtz says by the time they received the finances for stationery, the school had already bought stationery for the pupils.

"We sent out a list for the basics. Mostly books. When you send out these lists you also have to consider children who really cannot afford these items. So, we do not want to overburden parents. Yet the universal grant itself that must cover the school development fund, amount to about N$200 per child," says Scholtz.

Scholtz notes that they have observed that parents are not always negative about buying items when they know the school makes an effort with their children and that the child is performing well.

"When there is quality education given to a child, the teachers are committed, there is additional attention, pupils improve annually, parents are encouraged and want to invest in their children," said the principal.

The inspector for !Gariep circuit, covering Lüderitz, Aus and Bethanie, Cassius Shanyengange, noted that placement for schools in the circuit continues and a meeting will be held today at the regional directorate offices at Keetmanshoop to ascertain where spaces are still available.

The director of education for //Kharas region, /Awebahe //Hoëseb, on Tuesday disputed the report from the ministry of education.

"The ministry gave us until 12 January (yesterday) to submit our expenditure for the stationery grant. The regional office disbursed the monies and the schools are busy sending us their purchases," said //Hoëseb.

Concurring with the principals on the high needs, //Hoëseb said the expenditure on stationery, as reported, is N$1 118 357,39 for Kalahari circuit, N$770 712,23 for Namib circuit, and N$423 861,85 for !Garib circuit, which totals N$2 312 931,47.

"These are the figures I have to sign off and submit to the ministry on Wednesday. So, I do not know how there can be collated figures already and that //Kharas [schools] are underspending while the needs are so high. We have overspent, in fact, " said //-Hoëseb.

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