It is scandalous that any child should be turned away from school merely because his or her parents can’t pay the fees.
But Your Excellency, it is not enough to forbid school principals or anyone else to send them away. If they are to learn anything more than a few simple chanted slogans, they need paper to write on, pens to write with, books to read, desks and chairs and many other things which all cost money. Their parents, you admit, don’t have that money. Have you not noticed that even in the USA, the heart of the Evil Empire of capitalism, government accepts some responsibility for supporting education? And, unless I am mistaken, you still claim to head our government.
When we pay taxes, we expect government to provide some services in return. Most parents would be prepared to wait a little longer for the piles of rubbish in the streets to be removed, if only their children could be given an education.
Perhaps you were not aware that someone had to pay for all those teachers and pupils to come to hear you speak at the Sheraton on Wednesday 16 September? Perhaps you didn’t realise that schools were required to pay $85 for each person they were ordered to send to this conference? Perhaps from your eminence in your distant residence you are not aware how much our overworked and hard-pressed teachers could have done with that money?
Our local primary school, not the cheapest in the country, charges $65 per term per pupil, and about half the 1,000 pupils are unable to pay that. We hear that six people from each school in the country were required to attend; the head, chairperson of the school development committee, two teachers and two pupils. That cost our primary school $510.
That may not sound much for the schools your children attended, but down here it is a lot of money. It adds up to a lot of chalk, pens and exercise books, or text books. It would even provide a large number of classroom chairs. One does not need a PhD in mathematics to see that it is nearly equal to the fees collected from eight children, which have to be stretched to educate 15 for a term.
Now we are not sure that no payment was made for any representative of any school, but it is fairly obvious that a large number were not given any help. If this conference was so important, surely a less expensive venue could have been found?
This was not a party congress, where delegates seem to need five-star accommodation and many entertainments. If it was a serious working conference, they would not need these distractions. A lot of additional money spent on fares could have been saved if the conference was decentralised.
Another advantage of holding smaller, local versions of the conference around the country is that more delegates would be able to participate meaningfully. In three days, with six delegates from each of the thousands of schools in the country, few could have contributed anything to the discussions.
If I remember correctly, government used to own or have access to many training centres in each province of the country. Could these not have been used?
Empty rhetoric about poor pupils not being turned away is bad enough. It becomes meaningless when the government that proclaims this policy does not put its money where its mouth is.
When cash-strapped schools (and that means most schools in the country) are forced to pay for this kind of circus in an expensive hotel, any talk about concern for educating poor children does not deceive anyone. We are not fooled by it. It is an insult to our intelligence.Post published in: Featured