FREE EDUCATION, OR IS IT?
By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
Because I recently wrote articles about the introduced free education and analyzed the inadequacies especially related to funding to the schools, the CDF and bursaries, a parent called me.
“They said it’s free education! Why are we being made to pay the K1,000?” he asked surprised by the development.
Schools opened on Monday 24th January 2022 for the first time under the free education banner.
Or is it free?
Primary and Secondary School Education have essentially been free since President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa’s government when tuition fees were abolished.
But examination fees for examination classes were retained to be paid by the learners.
BUT PARENTS WERE PAYING?
If Education has been free since, what and why were learners being made to pay fees?
Yes, because of Government’s irregular funding to schools, Parents Teachers Associations ( PTA) were allowed to prescribe user fees for operations of the school and for capital projects such as water and sanitation, or the construction of perimeter fences.
School administrators, teachers and parents met and made agreed budgets for the year that were submitted to education authorities for purposes of scrutiny, approval and supervision.
GOVERNMENT PUTS A CAP ON PTA FEES
In 2011, the fees that schools could charge were capped but revised regularly.
Just before the implementation of the free education policy, fees were capped at K200 per learner, per term ( K600 per year).
For public secondary boarding schools, learners were levied K1,000 per term ( K3,600 per year including the prescribed K600).
WHAT FEES ARE BEING PAID NOW
Learners going to boarding schools are still required to pay K3,000 per learner, per year.
That is the fee the parent above was complaining about.
However, those deemed and assessed as orphans and vulnerable children will apply for bursary support to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to fund such payments.
An assessment will be done at constituency level where Ward Development Committees will compile lists to be submitted to CDF Committees for consideration and approval.
FREE EDUCATION INTRODUCED FOR BASIC EDUCATION
Government released K324 million for first term as grants and operational funds to; early childhood, primary and secondary public and grant-aided schools arising from the abolition of user and examination fees.
This was to help aid the implementation of the free education policy in primary and secondary schools.
There are about 1,009 secondary schools and over 8,343 primary schools standing in various categories.
Refer to earlier articles on this.
Government has budgeted for K18.1 billion to the education sector.
This is the lowest budget funding allocated to the sector in 20 years standing at 10.4% of the total budget of K173 billion.
Of this, K1.7 billion has been allocated to the recruitment of 30,000 teachers.