Three months into the era of free secondary education in the country, schools in Windhoek have expressed mixed emotions over the manner in which the programme was rolled out. Some schools have so far not had any problems with fee disbursements while others are decrying the time taken to deliver textbooks and that the money does not cater for extra-mural activities. There are about 82 000 learners enrolled in the secondary phase (grade) in state schools in the Khomas region. The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture made available N$30 million for the 2015/16 financial year for fee-free secondary education implementation from January to March 2016. A further budgetary provision of N$120 million will be requested from the Treasury for the 2016/17 financial year. A.Shipena Secondary School is one of the schools that have expressed gratitude to free secondary education, although it suggested that the fee allocation to school must include extra-mural activities such as sports and education trips planned by the school.
The school’s principal Rusten Mogane recalls how the school struggled to function effectively in the past due to the struggles involved in getting parents to pay the N$600 school development fund. “We struggled because most of our learners come from informal settlements. Now with the government’s intervention we can maintain the school,” Mogane said. Like other school heads, Mogane is not impressed by the fact that the money from government does not cater for extra-mural activities. “Extramural activates are not included in this package and I have seen that as a major challenge,” Mogane added. Mogane said: “We cannot even use a portion of that money for fuel when taking learners on a school tour.” “If we use the money for something else then you will be held accountable and you will have to answer because it was not part of the initial budget,” he said.
“Statistics might not have been compiled, but an estimated 60 percent of our learners do not live with their parents, majority will tell you that they either life with their brothers or cousins who are hardly at home,” Mogane said. Augustinuem Senior Secondary School principal Rudolf Matengu said the school has not encountered text book woes because the school’s management has been proactive in lobbying for its material. “There are some books that we still need of course but we have most of the books and stationery we need. The ministry has already paid in advance for the next semester,” he said. “We have received all the teaching materials we need on time, this is a clear sign that the Ministry has improved and shortages of textbooks have also been taken care of,” said Ella Du Plessis High school principal Tjakavaza Katjiuantjo Kavari Principal at said.
Kavari claims that schools that have not received their textbooks might have placed their orders late. “If you do it on time, everything will be delivered on time,” he said. Kavari said the school did also not have issues with the timeframe in which funds are disbursed. “The funding from government does not mean parents should sit back and relax because even though government is assisting us we still need the support of the parents because the money we receive is not enough to carry out all school activities,” he said. Kavari said the school has resorted to asking parents to voluntarily contribute to the coffers of the school. “Normally we used to work on a budget of N$800 per learner. Under the new system we only receive N$500 yet we are expected to continue carrying out all our functions,” he said. While some schools are enjoying the fruits of free education, others are complaining because of the time the ministry takes to deliver textbooks.
A teacher from Windhoek High School who chose to remain anonymous said: “We have not received any text books, we have been waiting for some books since 2014, we are already in the fourth month of the year and we are still waiting for textbooks.” “They say the teachers are not doing enough, forgetting that the delivery from the Ministry is very poor and whenever we call them to enquire they are never available,” said the teacher. Others lamented the fact that due to the abolishment of the school development fund, schools do not have resources to buy books for their libraries. Another teacher Jan Mohr Secondary School said the advent of free secondary education has limited the school’s resources because the school is restricted from extra books for its library.
“We cannot just teach from text books; sometimes we need extra books from the library. Sometimes the books are delivered on time and sometimes they are not delivered on time,” said the teacher who lamented that the school is also continues to wait for books ordered in 2014 already. Officials from the education ministry, including permanent secretary Sanet Steenkamp, and the public relations office were not immediately available for comment.