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Parents happy with free education

CHILDREN’S CORNER with PANIC CHILUFYA
THE 2022 budget that was presented on Friday cheered Jenny, a single mother of four. She has been struggling to send her four children to school from the money she makes from selling charcoal and vegetables. The decision by government has lifted a heavy financial burden on Jenny, who has been taking care of her children aged between 10 and 17 following the death of her husband several years ago. During the budget presentation, Minister of Finance Situmbeko Musokotwane announced that beginning January 2022, government is going to abolish PTA, examination and tuition fees in all government schools. Furthermore, government intends to recruit 30,000 teachers and build 130 secondary schools which will result in the reduction of the teacher-pupil ratio. And wards and communities will determine which children will be eligible to receive bursaries, once introduced. Jenny explained that in the past, raising the various fees for her four children had always been a challenge for her. Sometimes, her children were sent home due to failure to pay the fees. This added pressure on her and it also affected her children because they felt stigmatised whenever they were sent home, especially that some of their school mates tended to make fun of them. She hopes that all schools will abide by the government directive; in the past, some schools have followed the guidance from government. “Following the outbreak of Covid-19, and our children stayed at home for a long time, after they went back to school, government announced that learners will not pay school fees for the second term. But then I was surprised when my children came home one day and told me that if they do not clear the fees within one week, they were not going to be allowed to attend classes, and my daughter in Grade 12 would be barred to write her mock examinations,” she explained. Jenny said that she was forced to borrow money at an interest to clear the fees, especially for the girl who is in an examination class. She did not want her daughter to miss the examination due to her failure to pay the money. Jenny was grateful that the abolishment would give her and other parents in the same predicament as hers some breathing space without having to worry whether their children will be sent away from school or not. And speaking on Friday evening during the ZICA 2022 post-budget analysis dinner at Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC), Dr Musokotwane explained that the PAYE threshold could not be further adjusted because government has prioritised the education sector, especially that more learners will be expected to benefit from subsidised education through the provision of bursaries. He said the removal of tuition fees for learners will lead to an increase of high school graduates. He noted that government had to deal with various competing needs, including in the education sector. “It included the fact that a lot of young boys and girls are unable to go to school mainly because of the K600 that they were being asked to pay and, of course, many other competing requirements. So, we had to weigh, in our assessment, government paying the fees for these secondary school children we were giving to a broader spectrum of people. The tax relief you are talking about is only relevant to people who are in employment. But when we pay school fees of children out there, the number of beneficiaries is much larger,” the minister elaborated. Given this favourable environment, it is possible that Jenny’s children will be able to finish high school without having to worry whether they will be chased from school or not. They will be able to pursue career paths of their choice because they will be assured of the much-needed financial support from government. That is why former South African President Nelson Mandela recognised education as a great vehicle to bring about equality in the world. He strongly believed that education is an investment as it is key to eliminating gender inequality, reducing poverty and creating a sustainable planet. It is the new currency through which nations can maintain economic competitiveness and global prosperity. Covid-19 is real; stay at home and keep safe! Remember, children are our future. until next week, take care. For comments: pcmalawochilufya@yahoo.com