September 23, 2010

Poor turned away at schools

The right of every Namibian child to receive a free education seems to apply only to children whose parents can afford school development funds, with which many schools cover expenses such as telephone bills, maintenance, cleaning products and toilet paper. A group of women in Okahandja had assembled after many were shown the door by primary schools in the area refusing to enrol their children for next year's Grade One classes because the mothers are unable to pay the full fees due for the year. "Enough is enough," the parents said.

Although Article 20 of the Namibian Constitution states that all persons have the right to an education and state primary education will be provided free of charge, the angry Okahandja parents told the newspaper The Namibian that their children were missing out on an education because primary schools refused to enrol first-graders unless their parents paid the full school fees due for the year. And many parents who live in the informal settlements of Okahandja cannot afford to pay the annual fees of N$180 or N$200.

For some of the parents, this is nothing new. The group of assembled parents, mostly single mothers, who rely on sporadic earnings and receive very little support from fathers, told stories of children who are already eight years or older who have never been to school because they cannot pay N$180 or N$200 and schools refuse to educate their children. "We are told we must pay in full. Eden Primary School asks N$200, and they refused to accept a N$100 down payment," one mother said, who was allegedly turned away by the school this year after she was unable to make the full payment.
"Most of us do housework. We earn about N$300 and N$400 a month. Now we have to pay the full school fees. Plus we pay for books, flip files, school clothes. That is an extra few hundred. We can't afford it. I mean, we must also provide food for our children," one mother said.

The parents have decided to approach the Minister of Education, Abraham Iyambo, to ask him to explain the concept of "free education". They want answers from the minister on why education is said to be "compulsory while many Namibians cannot afford to send their children to start Grade One." (The Namibian)

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