RUNDU - The National African Students’ Association demands that the ministry of education pays the universal primary education (UPE) funds early in the year to prevent schools from demanding fees and stationery from parents, who sometimes have nothing to offer.
UPE replaced the school development funds.
“Today, we would like to address the nation on the practicality of free education in Namibia and the concerns raised by learners and parents arising from the 2022 school’s admission,” NASA vice president Paulus Vihemba said during a press conference on Monday.
“His Excellency President Dr Hage Geingob has declared 2022 as a year of ‘Reimaging’. However, to us as an association, this year is a year to intensify our commitment towards the advocacy for free, quality, accessible and well-resourced education,” he stressed.
NASA said learners are being denied admission or report cards are withheld by schools for not affording to buy stationery or pay the parental contributions, which is voluntary but is being enforced by schools as compulsory. The students association accused the ministry of education of doing nothing to ensure that schools do not exclude, stigmatise, label or discriminate against learners in the event that such learners cannot afford to contribute the requested resources, apart from releasing circulars and doing nothing to ensure such content is implemented.
‘’Schools are underfunded by the ministry by reducing and delaying the universal primary/secondary education grants given to schools per registered learner, especially now. As a result, schools are forced to put pressure on parents and as a result, a learner is affected in the process,’’ Vihemba stated.
‘’To understand free and compulsory education in Namibia, one has to understand its history. It all started during the liberation struggle, whereas free, quality and well-resourced education was amongst the most important basic needs that black people were demanding from the colonisers,’’ he noted.
After independence, free primary and compulsory education was constituted as a right in Article 20 of the Namibian Constitution.
‘’However, the ministry of education only declared it to be implemented in 2013. The nation was promised that parents would not be required to pay school development funds, nor buy stationery, and education would be fully funded and resourced by the government. However, eight years after the declaration of the implementation of free and compulsory education, free education now proves to be only a political statement that is only on paper,’’ he continued.
Vihemba stated that the practicality of free education is not visible in Namibia as many learners, especially in the Kavango regions where their investigation was mainly conducted and some other parts of the country, stillsuffer.
‘’Ironically, it appears that the money spent by parents on stationeries and contributions on school projects are two times more in the era of free education than before the implementation of free and compulsory education.
‘In all this, the ministry of education has abandoned its commitment to free education, and we are urging the nation to start having a discussion about the principality of free education. NASA takes this matter as a national matter which threatens free, quality, accessible and well-resourced education, and which encourages the discrimination of learners based on economic background,’’ he said.
NASA thus called on the ministry to increase the universal primary/secondary education grants to pupils because this is the only way that schools will have enough money to buy learning resources, and also recommended that the ministry sets a maximum amount of parental contributions for all schools to avoid schools overcharging parents.
“The ministry should at least pay the UPE by February to enable the schools to operate. We are calling on the regional directorates of education to ensure that no learner is refused admission, or his/her report card is withheld because of the voluntary parental contribution.
Lastly, NASA, through its regional structures, will be on the ground and identify schools which are returning learners because they cannot afford to pay the voluntary contributions or buy stationeries. We will furthermore identify eligible learners who are not yet admitted to school due to space, and we will engage the directorates of education for admission,’’ he added.
‘’NASA will continue to fight any form of injustice towards learners, anything that contributes to the poor performances of learners, or anything that seeks to suppress the freedom of learners, as enshrined in the Namibian constitution,’’ he observed.