The Ministry of Education and National Department of Education (NDoE) are implementing the Tuition Fee Free Policy of the People’s National Congress government since 2012. The TFF policy intends that children access free education in its entirety from Elementary to Secondary education.
The schools receiving TFF funds must not impose on stakeholders any additional fees. This is a directive from the National Executive Council in 2016.
TFF Policy Directive
The National Department of Education stance on schools charging is clear. No school principal and school board should impose any fee on parents. The NEC Decision in 2016 – after confusion arose between parents paying project fees and tuition fee-free policy – stated that
All school Principals of National and Provincial Institutions in the National Education System are reminded of the NEC Decision No. 01/2016 of 04th February 2016 that NO SCHOOL that receives Tuition Fee Free (TFF) funding imposes any fees including project fees, church agency fees, etc. from students, parents or guardians. (Secretary Press release | 6th February 2019)
Parents and stakeholders can report schools charging additional fees to the department of education. In addition, schools (private, agency or government-run receiving TFF funds) should not hold back Grade 8, 10 or 12 school certificates due to non-payment of any fees the school may have imposed at ther discretion.
A school can charge fees on credentials it offers if it does not receive the TFF grants. Any school receiving TFF funds must comply with the government’s decision.
Education Not Free
Many school principals fearing the late arrival of Tuition Fee Free funds have gone ahead and ask parents (and stakeholders) to pay fees against the government directive. The education minister was upset that many school principals have, over the years, imposed education fees. The minister in his recent press release [PDF] said
…. what is more frustrating is that some of [these] schools have used these fees as [a] condition of enrolment and deny children their basic right to education.’ (Minister Press release | 6th February 2019)
Education Ministry Action
Eight secondary school principals were suspended at the time of this report. Some of these principals were administrators of top performing schools in the country, unfortunately. It is not clear what the principals have to say about their suspension. The general concern is that the principals have schools to run. Is it necessary to suspend them at the beginning of the school year?
From the past experiences the government had released the TFF funds to school very late. Any sane principal would want his/her school to continue unhindered throughout the terms. The principals would not want their schools to close just because they do not have money at the beginning (or in the middle) of the year.
The government is challenged to release TFF funds on time. And the education department to facilitate fund disbursement on time. The poor education department is always caught in between the government and the parents/stakeholders.
This year (2019) the government released the TFF funds – the outstanding of last year – and decided to suspend the principals. Is this fair to the top performing principals?
The government has got to be consistent when releasing TFF funds quarterly instalments. The challenge to the education ministry is to check its records. Tell the suspended principals if it had released their allocated funds on time in the past.
If the education ministry was inconsistent in its duty to release the funds on time, the only right thing to do is to reinstate the 8 suspended principals. They have schools to run.
Investigate TFF Funds
This situation should encourage the ministry of education and NDoE to completely review the management of TFF funds nationwide. Investigate how the 3 componets (the 40% Cash Adminitration, 30% Infrustructure and 30% Teaching and Learning) were incoporated into School Learning and Improvement Plan (SLIP) and administered at school levels.