EVERY beginning of the year ignites a frenzy of concerns for parents of school-going youths.
They worry about whether their children will find a place in school, have school uniforms and materials and they worry whether the family coffers have enough money to pay for the skyrocketing school fund (fees), hostel fees and examination fees, et cetera.
Of course, in every society there are rich and poor parents, the haves and the have nots, the urban and the rural parents and the working and the unemployed parents including those who can only afford to sell oshikundu and kapana (but they are not allowed to sell in Independence Avenue).
This multitude of worries is generally and perhaps naturally linked to the expectation that the Government, and not private sector, should be responsible for education. It is clear as water of the Kavango River that for the past 17 years, our Government has indeed done a great deal to cater for the educational needs of all our students in all 13 regions and as such this Government of the people is the sole and authentic institution to respond to parents’ worries.
Accordingly, in every national budget, education scoops the highest allocation followed by health.
One wonders therefore as to where this money actually ends up. Why is this money not able to provide for books, food, hostel fees, examination fees for students and maintenance of schools in our country?
It has often been said that the bulk of the money goes to cover operational expenses and little actually filters through to allay the worries of our parents and thus benefit the students directly.
However, when one reads and analyses the Swapo Party election manifesto as well as the political programme, there is no doubt that the intention of the ruling party is to ensure that parents should not be burdened by such worries every year because the Government of the people has the capacity and the commitment to provide access to education for all regardless of socio-economic status. I confess not to have read the Education Act in its entirety but it will be my contention that it would equally envision for a similar commitment.
Fortunately for the parents of our country, both the fourth SPYL Congress and the fourth Swapo Party Congress last year came out strongly in favour of addressing the plight of our students in particular and our youth in general.
Therefore we are consulting and working on practical modalities of alleviating the worries of our parents by ensuring that students get adequate places in schools; have their fees/funds paid for; have their hostel fees, especially for the rural and urban poor, paid for; above all ensure that a conducive learning environment is created for education to meaningfully unlock the potential of our youth and students in order to contribute to the socio-economic development of our country.
In a broad sense, this should be a national agenda involving all stakeholders both in public and private sector rendering their support and implement the vision of our Government to provide education for all.
Just this past week, we explored one of the exciting possibilities, which will go a long way to address the plight of our students and parents alike.
In my opinion, it is only then that we would confidently speak about free education in Namibia.