Parents reminded, it’s free tuition, not free education

20Jan 2016
Our Reporter
The Guardian
Parents reminded, it’s free tuition, not free education

MISCONCEPTIONS are running rampant over the free education policy with parents and guardians misinterpreting it to mean zero expenditure.

Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training Joyce Ndalichako

A survey conducted by The Guardian over the weekend in several regions of the country had revealed that many initially celebrated the announcement of free education but now they are confused and shocked to learn that ‘free’ actually meant ‘free tuition’ but other expenses remain intact.
After schools opened last week, reality dawned and parents and guardians woke up to the realization that they still have financial responsibilities at the schools.
Rose Luhago, a resident of Ngano village in Ismani Constituency, Iringa Region is one such parent, she said she was shocked when her daughter was sent back home after she reported to school last week because she had no hostel fees.
“My daughter is studying at Ismani Secondary School which is a community school. We used to pay 400,000/- in hostel fees and food per year but when the government announced free education we thought that we are not going to pay for anything,” she admitted.
Luhago said that after the announcement that education would be free, she did not budget for her daughter’s education and used all the money she had for other expenses.
“Now I have to revisit my budget after realizing expenses such as food and boarding fees in schools such as the one my daughter studies at, are still there,” she lamented. The businesswoman said the government should have made it clear that in some public schools, there are expenses that will remain the parent’s responsibility.
Another parent in Handeni District, Tanga Region Ramadhani Juma said he was not aware any other school expenses would remain other than buying of school uniforms for his two children.
“I thought parents were no longer required to pay for anything at school but I am surprised that I have to pay for food (lunch) and stationeries which I thought would be provided at the school,” he said.
A teacher at Umoja Primary School in Tabata in the outskirts Dar es Salaam said parents stopped contributing for the school’s security guard since October last year during the General Election campaigns when contestants started pledging free education.
“We are facing problems at our school because we don’t have a security guard, parents stopped contributing for the service three months ago as a result some school properties have been stolen such as our water tank,” said the teacher who sought anonymity.
She said they used to pay the security guard 300,000/- per month and the school owes the guard salaries for three months; this despite the government’s 622,000/- in capitation money to the school.
“The government has banned all school contributions but it has not said how the financial gap so created will be covered,” she said noting that the total capitation provided by the government is not enough to cover the vacuum created by the free education policy let alone all other expenses.
Another teacher at Tabora Girls Secondary School in Tabora Region who also opted for anonymity said with the ban of school contributions the school opted not to collect uniform fees from parents but as a result, “... we are facing a challenge of school uniforms since we let parents buy them on their own now the colours no longer match especially for the newcomers in Form One,” she said noting the school uniform is blue skirts now the girls wear all manner of blue—dark, light, navy and anything bluish.
Other than the uniform issue, the teacher said all other operations are proceeding with no glitches and that the school has received 26m/- out of their allocated 35m/- in capitation.
Reached for comments, Member of the East African Legislative Assembly Nderakindo Kessy said there was need for the government to engage experts before implementing the free education policy. She said free education is contained in the new education policy of which stakeholders had questioned its implementation.
According to Kessy, the government had not done a thorough research to establish challenges facing the sector and how to best address them.
“Free education was a political statement which lacked research that is why it had resulted into these challenges,” she said.
“The government needed time before it started implementing the policy, it was supposed to ensure that all schools across the country have all basic needs such as desks, food and other important infrastructure,” she added and noted that the education sector is facing numerous challenges and provision of free education is not enough to tackle them.
On her side, Tanzania Education Network Coordinator Cathleen Sekwao said the government decision to subsidize education was welcomed but it should also encourage community participation so as to improve the sector.
“If the government is providing free education it should also finance all the other education needs … I don’t think at this moment the government is capable of financing free education 100 per cent without involving the community,” she said.
Mid December last year, the government released a circular on the free education policy that begun this month. Signed by Commissioner of Education, Professor Eustella Bhalalusesa, the directive revoked all other previous circulars that were providing for various contributions by parents and guardians in public schools.
According to the circular, parents are responsible for buying school uniforms, stationeries, food and medication for day scholars.
Parents are also required to provide their children with transportation to and from school for day scholars and for boarding students during holidays. They are also supposed to buy mattresses, bed sheets and other boarding necessities for borders and those leaving in hostels.
Ministry of Education and Vocational Training is responsible for setting aside funds for national examinations basing on the number of students as well as controlling education quality and monitoring and assessment of implementation of the free education policy.
“Provision of free education means pupils or students will not pay any fee or other contributions that were being provided by parents or guardians before the release of the new circular,’’ reads the circular in part.
Before the release of a new circular, secondary school students studying in day schools were paying 20,000/- fee while those in boarding schools were paying 40,000/-.
It was reported last week that more than 300 pupils selected to join secondary schools in Mbozi District will not begin studies as scheduled due to lack of classrooms. The pupils have been selected to join four different secondary schools but they will not be able to because the schools do not have sufficient classrooms to accommodate them.
Education Officer for Secondary Education in the district Honsana Nshullo said there are a total of 322 pupils who have been left out but reassured the public that construction is underway to increase the number of classrooms in the schools.
The council executive Director Edina Mwaigomole told The Guardian over a telephone interview that villagers should continue to contribute money for completion of the classrooms because according to him, the council has no money to finish the remaining construction work.

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