In Botswana, the ministry of education recently announced a reintroduction of school fees in state-run secondary schools. The ministry says the action is meant to reduce expenses because of dwindling revenue. This would affect all students in the second cycle schools run by the government. But opponents of the move accuse the government of trying to doom an excellent educational system. Observers believe that the reintroduction of fees, which have not been in effect for about 20 years, would deter the poor from sending their children to school.
Jacob Nkate is Botswana’s Minister of Education. From the capital, Gabarone, he tells English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey ”Its not just school fees. The government of Botswana has made a decision to pursue a policy of cost recovery, cost cutting, cost reduction, and so it’s happening in other parts of the economy as well. But speaking specifically about school fees, we will expect parents to share the burden of the education of their children with us. And the government will still carry the big burden of ninety-five percent of the education of every child at secondary school only and technical colleges. So the parents would be expected to carry the five percent burden.
Parents across Botswana have responded positively to the re-introduction of school fees. Many in the capital, Gaborone asnd the south-central districts of Palapye and Mahalapye have opted to pay the full amounts rather than use the installment system. But opposition parties and teachers unions remain concerned that delays in the process of assessing which cases are deserving may force some parents to keep their children out of school, fearing trouble if they could not pay the fees. They also argued that while it is true that many parents are paying, it is not an indication of enthusiasm or support for the new system. They said it would be too early and rather unfair to say the re-introduction of school fee s had taken off smoothly because the assessment process for those seeking exemption is incomplete and will probably take longer. The opposition added that reports of parents paying fees without trouble were far from representative as they came from the main urban centers.