“An irrational Education policy”. Letter to Ed, 24 January 2014
Irrational education policy
The recent Bainimarama Government initiative to guarantee a minimum fee payment for all primary and secondary school students is an excellent initiative that will help all poor students in Fiji.
However, their demand that schools must not engage in further fund raising is counterproductive as it will ultimately end up hurting the poor students who are currently attending good schools and stifling parents’ self-help spirit.
Many of the good schools are only able to provide excellent quality education by charging fees which are higher than what the government has just granted all schools.
These school managements are therefore asking parents to make voluntary contributions which will make up the difference between what the government provides and what they need to provide the extra facilities and services.
Currently, the Ministry of Education is threatening these schools for not complying with the government edict.
If the schools are forced to comply then the inevitable result will be that they will reduce the quality of their services to what can be financed by the government grant. All school standards will be lowered to the lowest common denominator.
Rich parents will still provide their own children with the extras that they need (like computers, internet access etc), but only at home. The poorer students in the school will therefore lose out as their parents cannot afford to provide the extras which the school used to provide through collective funding.
In the process, the Ministry of Education will also have stifled the self-help spirit that many communities have used in developing their excellent schools.
It is dismaying also that some civil servants who have been ordered to convey the Ministry’s irrational policy to parents and school managements, have been doing so with arrogance and lack of respect towards the parents and school managements.
The Public Service Commission might want to remind their Ministry of Education officials to read the great advice that Mahatma Gandhi gave on the responsibility of employees to serve their customers, even more important here given that the customers pay the taxes that fund the civil servant salaries, even the exorbitant level paid to the newly energized and increasingly dictatorial Permanent Secretary of Education.
Professor Wadan Narsey