On Friday 26 June, the Education Minister made a statement in the Daily Post that, rather than clarifies, just adds to the state of confusion surrounding the School Fee Subsidy.
The Minister is new to the position and cannot be expected to know all of the details so I can only conclude that he has been poorly advised by Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) staff.
Firstly, the statement on the front page that “Early Childhood teachers are already on the Government payroll” is only partly correct. There are many early childhood (ECCE) teachers that are not paid by government, including all Kindergarten staff at our school. Also, many ECCE teachers are not eligible for payment by the government because they do not meet the government’s criteria which is completely independent of the quality of the teaching that they provide. In response, provincial ECCE coordinators have devised various schemes with training providers to try and get the bulk of ECCE teachers ‘qualified’ so that they can eventually be paid by government.
Secondly, the Free Tuition Fee Policy that allocates 9,000vt per year for each Kindergarten student has not been paid to numerous schools and kindergartens. This school has still not received the full grant that was allocated late in 2018, let alone 2019. We have spent almost 18 months responding to a ‘criteria’ that has only been provided item by item until it was finally communicated in full in a recent email. Many kindergartens don’t have our resources and the determination to work through such vague and unregulated processes and they have simply given up without receiving the grant.
In relation to the Tuition Fee Subsidy for Primary and Secondary non-government schools there is a similar criteria that was first published on the MoET’s website in a Letter from the Minister on 9 June 2020. This Tuition Fee Subsidy is supposed to benefit parents; however, most criteria are outside of the parents’ control.
The only element relevant to parents is the provision of a Birth Certificate for each child, an issue that was not made known to parents prior to the final date for registration on the government’s VEMIS database, the 31st of May. All other items in the criteria are dependent upon the school and these are not clearly defined.
Sadly, this whole issue has been poorly managed and is totally confusing to parents and principals alike. At no time has there been any discussion, consultation or direct communication with the schools that it directly impacts. Parents have many questions that schools simply cannot answer.
I would humbly appeal to the Minister to take control of this matter and immediately implement some orderly process and conformity within his department. If schools have clear, direct communication and the MoET will listen to our concerns, then we can work together to assist schools and parents. However, if the process continues as it has started then there are going to be serious difficulties and increasing confusion. I expect that many parents are going to be very angry because they will have missed out on the promised subsidy, and it will be through no fault of their own.