Dear Minister Dokora,
I shall not bother asking about the festive season, for there was so much stress going around, especially when it comes to issues around education. Most of the parents, I bet, did not enjoy their festive season.Whilst there has been applause from some sections of the country as to the success of e-enrolment, as a parent I can easily relate to the pressures and stress that the system brought. I am speaking from experience because I had a child who sat for his Grade 7 last year.
Whilst your argument holds water that e-enrolment is being used around the globe for institutions as high as universities, that should not mean that there were, indeed, teething problems to the Form 1 electronic enrolment.
For starters, there was lack of prior education and awareness around the system – and how it would operate. All pointed towards a system that had been thought of, overnight.
Going forward, we are all hopeful that the system will be refined for future use, and public awareness campaigns be carried well in advance of enrolment, so that parents and pupils are acquainted with how the system operates.
What added to the pressures was that Form 1 preparations also coincide with the festive season, Christmas and New Year celebrations. As much as one would want to celebrate Christmas and or the New Year, one cannot hold such celebrations if they are not sure where their child would be going to, come January.
In future, as soon as Grade 7 results are announced, a day or two later would be advisable for the enrolment process to take place.
This helps in a number of ways as it takes away all the anxiety, confusion and stress associated with placing one’s child into a Form 1 class.
It goes beyond knowing which school, it also affects and determines how families prepare and spend over Christmas. There is no way a family will kill a goat for Christmas if they don’t know where and when their child will go for Form 1.
I am not sure if you were quoted correctly, but if it is true that you said boarding school is a luxury, then there must be something amiss in that reasoning. Education, in whatever form and nature, should never be treated as a luxury. Just like healthcare, it is never a luxury. Only that options and choices of accessing education and healthcare differ, largely depending on one’s exposure to wealth.
Then there is the little issue of schools selling uniforms. It is getting out of hand. A stitch in time would not be too bad.
Previously, schools would fleece parents by inviting more pupils for Form 1 interviews, at a highly unexplainable cost, than the school would ordinarily enrol. Interview fees were charged, and the reputable schools would attract as much as 2 000 prospective students, yet at most, they would enrol 120. That was daylight robbery.
When parents complained, your Ministry listened and moved in to stop the rot. Now the guys are back, but with a different strategy. They are milking parents of their hard-earned money.
Truth is, with Form 1 places, almost every parent is sitting on a knife edge as the headmasters, aware of this anxiety, tell parents whatever they want to say.
Some schools are charging Form 1 enrolment fees, over and above the normal school fees. Others have gone the extra mile to make it mandatory that the school uniform can be bought nowhere else — but at the school.
This is ridiculous. Even hospitals give patients the option to buy medication elsewhere. So why should schools say that they should have exclusive school uniform selling rights? If they remain unchecked, the next thing is they will be running bookshops, that is if they are not already. They will tell parents to buy textbooks only from the school.
Education is not a luxury and should never be seen as such. We have reports of schools, some of them in the midst of resource-poor neighbourhoods, demanding that parents buy uniforms from them. They even have the audacity of giving parents a uniform list, which doesn’t even state the colour or nature of the uniform. Stating that it is available only at the school.
So on behalf of several already burdened parents, it is my appeal to you, Honourable Minister, that your Ministry moves in, with the same attitude, responsiveness and clarity of mind, as it did with Form 1 entrance tests, and bring normalcy to our schools system.
Schools should concentrate on their core business — that of providing education — and should not be seen as business enterprises. A close inspection will reveal that a small clique within the school administration will be financially benefiting from such arrangements.
Yours in education,
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