By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK MANY parents are taking advantage of the Ministry of Education’s directive that “poor” children unable to pay school funds should not be refused registration at schools. So said Dennis Fredericks, principal of Dawid Bezuidenhout Secondary School in Khomasdal. He was one of two capital-based principals who expressed serious concerns about school funding exemptions and the use of development funds at such educational institutions. “The procedure and criteria to identify what children qualify for exemption of school funds of being ‘poor’ as per definition of the Ministry of Education, is that at the discretion of the principal, such children are referred to social workers for assessment. Their economic, social and domestic backgrounds are then thoroughly investigated. A report is then compiled and handed to the Namibian police after which time only the report is handed to school principals,” said Fredericks. According to him, some parents take advantage of such instances. “Some parents just do not want to pay school funds for their children and come up with the most ridiculous ways to side-step such payments. These deplorable actions have cost my school a lot of money in the past. Last year alone, 60 percent of outstanding school funds could not be collected due to ‘poor’ economic circumstances in the Khomasdal community. It has become obvious that some parents just don’t care to pay for anything in the interest of their children,” the principal charged. Those who qualify to be exempted from their financial responsibilities are children of unemployed parents, orphans, single parents, the so-called granny-children, pensioners and sick parents. Fredericks went on to compare annual school fees between his school and that of previously advantaged ones. “The yearly fee at my school is only N$700 whereas children in city schools pay up to N$3 000 per year. Refusal to pay cripples any school fund and further stifles educational development. Our schools can thus not develop the way they should be doing due to the reluctance of many of our parents to pay,” he said. The learners of Jan Jonker Afrikaner Secondary School in Katutura are compelled to pay an annual amount of N$500. “The learners can optionally contribute more, depending on their financial abilities. This amount is needed to strengthen the development fund towards which the Ministry of Education does not contribute. However, the ministry provides the infrastructure, teachers and textbooks. The school development fund takes care of minor renovations and the purchase of educational equipment,” said the principal of Jan Jonker Afrikaner, Ailistaire Pitt. He and the school staff have now started a fundraising effort to build a hall, considered not to be a priority by the Ministry of Education.