/ 14 July 2009

Students want 95% no fee schools by 2010

By 2010, 95% of South African public schools must be free for students, the Congress of SA Students (Cosas) said on Tuesday.

”… to make sure that we ultimately achieve the goal of the Cosas, that of free compulsory education for all learners in public schools. That is what we will continue to fight for recklessly (sic).

”…come next year the minister must come with us publicly to say we are now declaring about 95% of public schools no fee schools,” said Cosas president Wesley Kgang at a media briefing at the African National Congress headquarters in the Johannesburg CBD.

Cosas convened the briefing to pay tribute to its former president Wantu Zenzile who died in a fire at his Centurion home on Saturday.

Zenzile was a founding leader of Cosas and its president from 1980 to 1982. He was working for the National Intelligence Agency at the time of his death.

Kgang said Cosas would keep Zenzile’s legacy alive by ensuring free education for those who needed it most.

He said should the policy fail to be implemented in 95 percent of public schools; Cosas would instruct its constituency to attend school without paying.

But other than that, if they disagree to declare 95% no fee schools we will be forced to tell our constituency next year forcefully not to pay any school funds but to go to those schools free.”

Cosas deputy secretary general Goodman Nkung said the student body was ”not happy at all” about the progress made by government in achieving the goal of free education for students in public schools.

”…of course we appreciate the efforts that have been made since the attainment of democracy in 1994, but really most of our students are still suffering,” he said, adding that the no fee policy itself was creating problems which were ”ravaging” the education system.

”The problem is that policy has created some particular problems because we found out that maybe in a particular area where there are no-fee schools learners tend to go to those particular schools and leave others where they are required to pay.

”…that leads to a problem that is ravaging our education system, a problem of overcrowding in classes and, of course, that also leads to a shortage of material in schools a shortage of text books and even a shortage of teachers,” he said.

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union deputy secretary general Mugwena Maluleke said while the union has always supported the no fee policy, there were problems in its implementation.

Maluleke said the main weakness was the late deposits by provincial governments to the section 21 or self-managed schools.

This compromised the quality of education at schools as their management were forced to spend their time securing resources.

He said there was a need for the bureaucracy in provincial legislatures who administered the policy to correctly interpret it.

No fee schools account for 40% of students and the ANC hoped to expand this to 60%, according to its 2009 election manifesto. — Sapa