No-fee school review under fire

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Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Johannesburg -

Teachers’ unions have had mixed reactions to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s announcement that the funding policy for no-fee schools will be reviewed.

Motshekga was quoted as saying last week that the government would gazette for public comment guidelines on how parents of pupils in no-fee schools could be asked to make contributions to schools.

“We are tabling a document on no-fee schools… because we say (they can’t) pay fees, (but) parents (who) can afford to buy a 2l Coke, would not even donate R20 to a school, Motshekga said at a briefing in parliament last Wednesday.

It was reported earlier this year that some no-fee schools were asking parents to pay fees even though it is illegal, as the schools could not afford necessities such as chalk.

Motshekga appeared to acknowledge this problem. “There are things that schools would require that government is not necessarily able to provide at that given time. We have to encourage parents (to make contributions).”

Schools were not charging school fees by asking for donations.

SA Democratic Teachers Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the union opposed the move.

“It’s a reversal of our gains, as articulated in our Polokwane resolutions. Sadtu has always campaigned for free and compulsory education,” he said.

Mugwena said the government should consider if the funding model was adequate.

He urged the government to follow countries such as Cuba, instead of adopting policies similar to First World countries.

“They (Cubans) were able to improve the literacy rate to 96 percent in just one year through public funding… the mass democratic structures are going against this policy because we are advocating free and compulsory education, including at tertiary level.”

Basil Manuel, president of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA, said Motshekga’s statement was an admission that the funding policy on no-fee schools was flawed.

“The current policy didn’t consider the practical operational realities in the schools. The current legislation is too rigid as it doesn’t allow for schools to raise even a small amount from parents, let alone those who are willing and able. All of this happens while government structures are such that monies don’t make it quickly enough through the system,” Manuel said.

The policy did not provide for purchasing disinfectants for toilets, other sanitary items and chalk.

“The aim is not to re-establish school fees, but to allow for the generation of some small fees.”

Ministry of Education spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said the department was not deviating from the core policy and was merely trying to encourage parents who could afford to contribute to do so.

“We are not stopping no-fee schooling. We are regulating the policy to allow for parents who can afford to, to contribute voluntarily.”

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