By Zwelihle Sukati | 2021-03-20
The demand for last year’s outstanding schools fees is a hot potato and this issue spiralled into a nerve hitting pop-up question.
Though the education ministry says it cannot issue a directive but “parents have an obligation on their part to pay last year’s outstanding schools fees”.
But the tone is simple, just pay up double the fees for a child’s education this year. This transpired yesterday during a the ministry of education’s press conference on the reopening of schools for the 2021 school calendar year, when our reporter posed a question for a clear-cut clarity on demands for parents to settle last year’s school fees.
Frustrating many parents is that the effects of the coronavirus global pandemic have left them without jobs because of retrenchments.
Also, many businesses have been closed, as indicated by the minister of commerce, industry and trade last week in Parliament that 226 companies were deregistered in the current financial year for various reasons.
There have been many deaths as the COVID-19 reared its ugly head in homes, taking the lives of breadwinners.
This publication understands that it has been officially announced that school will re-open March 29, schools are intensifying demands for parents to pay up last year’s fees upon registration.
Schools closed last year in March due to the coronavirus outbreak and some parents have been in disagreement over settlement for last year’s fees.
It is these concerns that almost turned the minister’s press briefing into an interrogation from her officials, even before the minister could respond.
“Before the minister can respond to this, who says children were not learning while at home because they have been taking lessons on radio and other forums?” interjected the principal secretary, Bertram Stewart. He listed some expenses schools have had to live with; including electricity and water bills, maintenance, and support staff for when schools took in completing class. Other school administrators have even justified demands for payment of fees with the unexpected expenses for soaps and sanitisers.
“We cannot as government give a directive but the position is that parents have an obligation to pay for their children’s education,” Stewart said.
“What I know from experience is that parents have a way to engage the head teachers to negotiate for suitable payment terms,” Minister of Education Lady Howard- Mabuza also commented.
“This has always been the case, with or without COVID-19,” she went on to say. “And parents should assist and play their part.”
The education ministry top brass came short to saying parents and guardians should not be cry-babies, with the principal secretary likening the situation with that of a certain country that build houses for its citizens and still the people demanded that that government builds for them even toilets.
“60 per cent of pupils in school are paid for by government under the orphaned and vulnerable children programme, there is also the free primary education programme, and we are saying parents should also assist government,” they said.
“However, in her written statement the minister acknowledged that children had not experienced any effective learning since March 2020.
“It has been over a year since the closure of our schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” was the minister’s opening line.
“This means that a number of Emaswati children have not experienced any effective learning since March 2020, despite all the ministry’s efforts to ensure the continuity of education.” She said government’s decision to re-open schools was not because the virus had been contained but done in consideration of the socioeconomic impact of prolonged school closure.
Another question that came from scribes at the conference was whether there was an arrangement to have teachers vaccinated, the minister said the current available vaccines were not sufficient enough for everyone but priority to be with people with comorbidities, for now.
TSC to announce dates, signing of contracts for contract teachers
The teaching service commission will announce dates and venues for contract signing.
Education minister Lady Howard-Mabuza said there was no need for teachers hired on contract to physically come to the ministry for such activities.
“As we open schools, I urge all stakeholders in education, from my hard working teachers, learners down to public transport operators to be vigilant and keep a safe environment.”
The minister said the safe opening exercise requires a collective effort by the entire community in playing their part in adherence to COVID regulations for the safety of our schools.
“Parents and guardians have the responsibility to ensure that their children wear a clean face mask on a daily basis.” She said parents should also ensure that children do the assignments that will be given to them at school as we implement the blended learning approach
‘Pregnant or not pupils must report to school’
The rate of teenage pregnancy,sexual abuse, child labour and early child marriages has notablyincreased since the closure of schools.
Minister of Education Lady Howard-Mabuza said government’s decision to re-open schools was not because the virus has been contained but done in consideration of the socioeconomic impact of prolonged school closure.
“Learners are urged to return to school, whether pregnant or whatever situation, pupils must engage their head teachers for a way forward,” she said.
The minister went on to request employers who had hired pupils to release them for their return to the classroom. “We appreciate the time they took in employing learners so that they were able to afford toiletry but it’s now back to school,” she pointed out.
With the above said, the excitement of this announcement should not allow us to let our guard down, the minister cautioned. “The virus is still deadly and hence requires stringent adherence to COVID-19 regulations and guidelines,” she said.
“To all the learners who have been affected by being out of school, either through pregnancy, employment or discouraged to learn, I urge you all to return to school.
“Psychological services for all affected students will be provided by the guidance teams in schools.”
How pupils will learn in shifts, compressed syllabus
As means of addressing the issue of social distancing in schools, the ministry developed a plan detailing a blended approach to teaching and learning.
This means specific levels will be allowed for school face-to-face instructional time on specific days and give them assignments to do while they are at home.
In recognising that there is a lot of learning material to recover, the ministry developed a compressed curriculum for all subject areas.
“Head teachers should ensure that they fetch these resource materialsfrom their regional education offices so that their teachers adapt to it for teaching following a recorded video which guide them on how to work handle the curriculum,” the minister said. Moreover, the ministry developed a COVID-19 training module which all teachers are expected to teach to learners on the first week of reopening.
“The ministry believes knowledge is the most effective way to ensure that learners adhere to these guidelines and will further pass this information to their parents and communities.”
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