N$51 million for stationery and educational material

Contributed 

The education ministry has in March 2021 transferred N$51 million for schools across the country to procure stationery and educational material with about N$3.5 million ear-marked for the Erongo region.

The executive director in the education ministry Sanet Steenkamp has set the record straight on the misconstrued stationery list issued to parents that have gone viral over the holidays.
Steenkamp said, “the current public outcry regarding the in-creased reliance of schools on parents to provide school stationery is worrisome, more so while schools are receiving the universal primary and secondary grants.”
According to Steenkamp schools received the funding for stationery but now they see that there are still costs brought to parents which they should not be carrying. There is a need for an assessment of balances in school and hostel development fund accounts to ascertain available funds, for possible procurement of stationery at school level.
“The reason why we sent out that guideline is for parents and principals to be fully aware, so that parents are not inundated with unnecessary requests. They need to be fully aware of what the schools can cover, and what parents can contribute.”
Steenkamp said a list has been made available to parents, and schools must say what they will provide, while parents are requested to make available the most basic things.
The idea is to have an open dialogue at school level between the parents, to hold the school accountable to say what they are making available, and what is expected of parents.
Steenkamp said, “the list was only a guide for teachers and schools on what type of stationery learners in different grades need.”
According to Steenkamp, free education means parents do not pay teachers’ salaries, utility bills and the upkeep of school facilities. By buying stationery, they make but a ‘minimal, feeble’ contribution to their children’s education.
She dismissed claims that schools would turn away less privileged learners for not having these items or for being unable to make financial contributions. Her opinion is that schools should go out of their way to accommodate learners who cannot afford financial contributions or stationery.
“If they cannot afford, we respect that 100%, we will supply. But free education is misconstrued and does not take in consideration the obligations of parents towards their children’s education. The same parents who are willing to pay hefty fees at private schools are demanding that government pays for everything,” she said.
She however emphasized that while the government will provide the bulk of stationery supplies, parents will be expected to ‘complement’ these resources, but should certainly not be obligated to provide schools with ‘Cobra polish’ or ‘toilet paper’ for the upkeep of schools.
Steenkamp added that basic stationery for junior primary to be expected from parents is only a ruler, three pencils, an eraser, scissors and the Mini Oxford dictionary and for secondary learners, parents are expected to provide these basic items plus a scientific calculator, mathematics set and one or two hardcover exercise books with the other hardcover books as stipulated in the stationery list should be provided by the schools.
“We will not provide the math set and scientific calculator, those are one-off payments and an investment in your child’s education. Parents can buy these items on a monthly basis until they have everything.”
However, the demand for copier paper remains non-negotiable, because the copying of educational material takes up 65% of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) budget.
Steenkamp concluded “Parents are not under any obligation to buy a flip file if the learner still has a book that is not full. A flip file of 50 to 70 pages costs around N$75 – do we really expect parents to buy this?”
“We can’t tolerate excessive luxuries requested from the parents. The parents’ role and responsibility is to invest in their children’s education. We want them to join us in that,” she said.
As schools reopen next week, the education ministry has warned against any form of discrimination for eligible learners seeking admission in public schools this academic year.
Steenkamp cautioned schools against withholding progress reports of learners due to non-payment of parental voluntary contributions and that no learner should be excluded in any form.

 

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