OP-EDs

OP-ED: NO STUDENT SHOULD BE EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL FOR NON-PAYMENT OF FEES

A group of 20 parents of children at public schools in Mafeteng have written to the Education and Training Minister Ntlhoi Motsamai to make a commitment that no public school will expel students due to the non-payment of school fees this year. This is their letter.

By Concerned Parents

We are a group of 20 parents and guardians of students from schools in Mafeteng. It is with a huge degree of frustration and desperation with which we write this letter and hope that you will be able to engage with us.

Even before coronavirus hit, we were already struggling to make ends meet due to pre-existing shocks and crises. This means we were already struggling to pay our children’s school fees.

Some of us were bartenders while some were domestic workers and others were waitpersons and we have since been rendered unemployed due to the lockdown restrictions.

Some of us relied solely on remittances sent by our children who work in South Africa, majority of which worked in the informal sector – often outdoors – and their activities were brought to an abrupt end by the lockdown.

The lockdown made their hand-to-mouth existence untenable and now most of them are still locked up in South Africa without money to pay accommodation and buy essentials.

We have very little to fall back on, materially and financially speaking and could find ourselves forced to abandon our livelihoods. We might have to sell our animals and planting and sowing equipment. Once we do that, getting to be self-reliant again will become extremely difficult.

We write to you fully cognisant of the pressures schools that have to pay some of their teachers and non-teaching staff face, and have as a result urged stakeholders to continue paying school fees.

Having grown up and attended school in this country yourself, you surely understand how falling behind on school fees is a fear that many parents face.

Now with so many parents having lost their incomes, it is a scary reality for parents who are now struggling to get enough food for their children and worry about their next meal.

This, Minister, is a real challenge for you and your Ministry, one which needs immediate attention.

We are asking you to make a solemn commitment that when classes resume, government will prohibit all public schools from preventing students from returning to school, suspending or expelling them due to the non-payment of school fees, depending on whether a parent has suffered a reduction in salary, has become unemployed or was forced to close down his/her small business.

We know that as parents and guardians it is our responsibility to make sure the fees are paid, but due to the coronavirus pandemic it has become extremely difficult to make ends meet hence we are asking that no matter how far behind a parent is on fees, the schools should not expel the children or withhold their reports.

This will ensure that learners are not deprived their right to education.

We do understand that there will be an impact on the finances of schools which operate on shoestring, in particular, and the education system in general, but these are unprecedented, stressful and dangerous times.

The financial impact that the situation is having on everyone needs to be considered.

We would also like you to consider expanding secondary education and to make it universal overtime by abolishing school fees starting from next year, 2021. The expansion will improve education access for our poor children.

We are also aware of an open letter published in the Public Eye newspaper of 29 May 2020, asking the Minister to reasonably justify why high school students are required to fork out for school fees while their counterparts in primary schools and institutions of higher learning get a generous support from state.

We would like to hear the Minister’s clear-headed justification.

We do hope that the above gives you some food for thought, and perhaps we can expect you to take the lead in addressing these issues, which affect us all in this country, particularly us the poor.

Hear our voices, hear our prayers – we are the parents. We are appealing to you to do what is in the best interests of our poor children. NW

The Night’s Watch has seen the list of 20 parents’ names.

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