Windhoek – Despite the 2017 academic year already commencing last week, some public schools are still waiting for the government to deliver stationery for learners to begin classes.
This situation has led to many schools going against the government policy on providing free primary and secondary education. Parents who contacted New Era last week said some schools had asked them to buy stationery for their children because government supplies are usually late and sometimes insufficient.
However, some parents said they had no problem buying stationery for their children because they want learning and teaching to start as soon as possible.
The Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) is of the view that no school should force learners to buy materials for studying, saying doing so is wrong and illegal.
Nanso secretary of education and research, Ashwell Forbes, yesterday pleaded with the ministry of basic education to speed up the purchase of materials for schools.
“We understand the challenge of the budget only coming out end of March but we request better planning as schools start in January and not March when budgets are approved,” he responded to questions on the issue.
The ministry’s permanent secretary Sanet Steenkamp said the regions followed procurement procedures, but many experienced severe difficulties with government stores which most of the time don’t have the required stationery.
She advised regions to go through regional tender boards to speed up the process, adding that government does provide funding for stationery and a basic education grant.
“Regarding all other additional stationery, parents should see that their children have it. We provide very basic stationery. It’s imperative that parents provide some of these additional things. For the 2016/17 financial year we made funding available for textbooks and stationery. Regional processes were supposed to have kicked off in 2016 with the regional tender boards and government stores to ensure stationery is available,” she maintained.
She said the allocated amount for stationery is N$150 per child. The stationery is procured in bulk to cut down on costs.
She added that parents should not be forced to buy stationery but should understand the situation and meet government halfway so that learners already learn on the first day of school.
Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha also expressed concern that parents should not be forced to buy stationery or pay school development fund fees, though adding that they can make such contributions on a voluntary basis.
“The issue of school fees should be removed from the school vocabulary. Parents, whoever mentions the words school fees, take your bag and leave that office. What is there is a voluntary contribution,” he stressed.
He also condemned some Windhoek schools that are apparently forcing parents to pay for an application form for Grade 9, while learners are already part of the system.
“It’s wrong if a principal requests money for an application form for learners who are already in the system. It’s wrong today, it will be wrong tomorrow and it was wrong yesterday. We as TUN are calling on principals to refrain from this inhumane attitude. If they want resources, there are other ways to deal with it.
They can approach government to increase the grants to schools or do fundraising,” he reacted.
He said TUN would not like teachers and principals to contradict government policies.
“These policies were introduced in order to deal with socio-economic circumstances, especially for the poor,” he said.