Don’t Turn Kids Away, Says Ministry

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By Emma Kakololo WINDHOEK The Ministry of Education yesterday sent out an urgent notice to parents, guardians and principals of schools reiterating Government’s Education Policy regarding admission requirements to public schools. With the opening of public schools today, the ministry said the School Development Fund or school uniform should not be used as conditions to admit learners to a public school, despite the importance of the Fund as stipulated in the Education Act 16 of 2001. “Of equal importance is the practice of having school uniforms as a way of addressing the socio-economic imbalances, school discipline and the image of the school.” However, it has come to our attention that, despite repetitive reminders to schools some parents/guardians are faced with demands by schools to make upfront payment to the School Development Fund and having school uniforms as conditions for admission to some public schools,” stated Education Permanent Secretary Vitalis Ankama. He emphasised that no learners should be turned away from schools because of payments that cannot be done at the opening of the school or that such a learner does not possess an appropriate school uniform. Parents are also urged to approach schools in case they have difficulties or are unable to pay the prescribed school development fund or hostel fee so that their status can be understood and exemption procedures can be made as prescribed in the Education Act and Regulations. He said the ministry was also aware of schools that withheld examination reports in December 2005, because some learners did not make full contribution to the School Development Fund. “Such schools are hereby instructed to give the affected learners their reports upon school reopening and discuss such an issue or problem directly with the parents in humane manner. It is our expectation that with the knowledge of the socio-economic circumstances of our people, amicable solutions will be found,” he stated. Ankama also reminded schools and teachers that corporal punishment, initiations of any sort meted out on learners are in violation of Article 8 of the Namibian Constitution and was upheld by the Supreme Court of Namibia on April 05, 1991. With regard to admission to hostels, he said such admission could only be considered when an application was made the previous year and that admission to school does not automatically guarantee a place in the hostel. “Hostel fees are payable in advance in one instalment at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of each term. No learner will be allowed in the hostel without payment of the relevant fees,” he said, adding that parents or guardians who do not have the means to pay the full hostel fees could obtain exemption or reduction of hostel fees in line with the Education Act and Regulations after the prescribed form has been completed. “Repeaters of a grade are not automatically readmitted in a hostel; they will only be considered provided there is space in the hostel and they demonstrated continued good conduct in the school and hostel.” Ankama appealed to parents and guardians to report such issues and the particulars of the staff member concerned directly to the relevant regional directors. No places for Grade 1s As today marks the beginning of the new academic year, hundreds of parents are still struggling to get places for their little ones to begin their formal education because most schools are full, with waiting lists running in numbers, to get a place in Grade 1. A.I. Steenkamp Primary school in Katutura has only five classrooms for Grade 1s and they are all full. “Today we had to turn away parents because all our five classes for Grade 1s are full. Normally, a class should have 35 learners, but now we have 37 to 38 learners in a class,” stated Pauline Awaseb, the headmaster at the school. She blamed parents for waiting until the last day to enrol their children. “It’s quite important for parents to look for a place very early instead of waiting for the beginning of the year. We have other things to attend to at the beginning of the year and cannot attend to enrolments this time of the year,” she said. Principal of Khomasdal Primary School, Sawyer Theo, echoed this. “Parents always wait until the last moment to approach schools, but we always indicate the period when to enrol their children. They always give poor lame excuses, blame someone else, not wanting to take responsibilities for their own actions,” he said. He said the problem of classrooms was not limited to Grade 1s only but to the entire primary school system up to Grade 7. “We need more schools. There is a steady influx of learners from other regions and we need to accommodate them.” Khomasdal Primary School has only four classrooms for Grade 1s, two classes for English instruction and the remaining two for Afrikaans medium of instruction, and they are all full. There are 40 learners in each classroom.