SELEBI-PHIKWE: English medium schools are in a race to re-enrol students of ex-BCL employees to their schools after Cabinet approved this year’s payment of school fees.
Area Member of Parliament and Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration minister, Nonofo Molefhi has confirmed that Cabinet approved payment of this year’s school fees, but regretted the timing of the decision, as there are delays on the part of the Ministry of Basic Education to do necessary arrangements.
Molefhi also said now children of ex-BCL employees in government schools can be assisted would also be considered.
He said the amount to be paid would be determined by the number of affected ex-BCL employees’ students. He said this was approved together with the payment of rentals for ex-BCL employees.
The decision by government to pay for this year comes at a time when private schools, particularly Kopano and Mount Pleasant, have already lost many students to government schools.
Now efforts to call back the students is a dilemma as a majority of parents are not willing to have their children return because they fear a situation of having to secure spaces again in government schools next year.
For Kopano school only 11 students out of the 165 that left last year are willing to start next term while for Mount Pleasant just less than five out of 100 have so far responded positively.
Kopano school head, Levina Granger said though they are very happy with government’s initiative as it gives guarantee for fees for ex-BCL students that they already have in their school. She said by the end of last year parents had removed their children from the schools.
“The response is not very impressive as most of the parents say they cannot do so because they do not know what will happen next year considering that they struggled to secure admissions in government schools,” she said.
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Granger was of the view that government must make announcements well in advance to allow parents to make informed choices and said had the announcement been made at the end of last year parents would not be in a dilemma. In 2016 when the mine closed the school had 500 students and now only 335 remain.
The school head said as a result they had to retrench teachers and support staff and had to go from double stream to only one class for each grade.
She said the uncertainty over whether government will pay or not does not only affect parents and children but also the staff because they retrench and recruit.
“Our teachers are now busy applying for jobs elsewhere hence we continue to lose experienced staff to other schools. It is a huge challenge to retain staff because of the Selebi-Phikwe situation. Government should not just be reactive but must also plan properly,” she said.
She is however grateful of government’s intervention and said had it not it could have been a crisis as parents (ex-BCL employees) are struggling with payment.
Granger said the family fun day they hosted last weekend proved that Selebi-Phikwe is not dying hence government must continue to support the town.
Mount Pleasant on the other hand has sent written letters to parents last week informing them of the government’s decision to pay for fees for ex-BCL employees’ children who were at the school last year