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Poor budgeting will fail the free education dream

Filed under: Education,Latest News |
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2022 BUDGET

The poor budgeting allocation to education sector will fail the free education dream.

By Amb Emmanuel Mwamba

For the first time in twenty years, the education sector has received the lowest allocation of 10.4 per cent of the National Budget.

The relative share of the 2022 Budget to the education sector budget is at its lowest in ten years with the highest level having been in 2016 where the sector received 20.2 per cent.

This development poses a significant risk to Zambia’s economic ambitions as education is an important source of human capital formation, generating technical skills and creating the man-power required for sustainable development.

In the Budget of K173billion, Government has allocated K18.1billion for operations for both primary and secondary schools, for skills development, teacher recruitment and for on-going construction of school infrastructure.

Despite massive investment in the education sector, education outcomes remain poor.

STATE OF EDUCATION Our public education is in a deep crisis.

A study done by Examination Council of Zambia ( ECZ) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ( OECD) revealed that 15 year old students achieved only 5 per cent and 2 per cent of the minimum international level of proficiency in reading and mathematics respectively. The average years of schooling stand at 6 years instead of the recommended 13 years ( from early childhood to secondary school education).

Classroom parity for primary and secondary school level stands at 1 to 9. This means that the number of drop-outs and those learners remaining behind continues to be big due to lack of classrooms as one progresses higher.

FUNDS ALLOCATED TO SCHOOLS TOTALLY INADEQUATE Since the MMD days, Government has provided free educational services for learners at primary school level. At secondary school level, however, learners pay K600 (K200 per term) per year per child as user fees.For those learners in boarding secondary schools, they pay an additional K1000 per term to bring the total to K3,600 per year per learner.In addition, Parent Teachers Association (PTA) prescribed fees and examination fees are also paid.

Government has announced that it has abolished both user and examination fees that learners pay in public schools.

Regarding boarding fees for secondary school learners, a bursary scheme has been introduced for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs). The provision of the budget for the bursaries will be done through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

PUBLISH RELEASED FUNDS TO SCHOOLS Last week, Secretary to Treasury released K324 million as grants and operational funds to early childhood, primary and secondary schools to fill the gap arising from the abolition of user and PTA fees.

Ministry of Education has since made funding profiles for the schools to receive these funds.5,587 Primary Schools have been allocated funds for requisites receiving a total sum of K35million.The highest receiving K20,000.00 per term while the least received K2,700 per term.3,098 primary schools will also receive grants totaling K22.9million.

Secondary Schools received K16.7million with K440,000 per term being the highest and the least receiving K369.00 per term.

The 1,421 secondary schools as grants will receive K12million with the highest receiving K17,000 per term and the lowest K5,600 per term.Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) Programme will receive K12.3million with the highest school receiving K25,000.00 per term and the least receiving K960 per term.

It is clear from the above that all categories of schools will receive a drastic reduction from their own budgets run under user fees arrangements.I therefore challenge the Ministry of Education to publish details of the funds allocated to schools in the public media to enhance transparency and accountability.

The publication of the released funds will also reduce conflict and suspicions between the parents, learners and school authorities.

CONCLUSION Since the public purse has faced competing needs, Government should have phased the implementation of the abolition of PTA and user fees in Secondary Schools.

Parents and guardians with capacity to pay should have been allowed to continue paying the K600 (K200 per term) in Secondary Schools and the K3,600 ( K1,200 per term) per year in Boarding Schools.Orphans and vulnerable children must have benefited from the available provision and exempted from paying any fees as a start.

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