KUNDIAWA – High and secondary schools in Simbu Province are on the verge of closure due to the delay in the release of the tuition fees by the national government. At least two secondary schools in Simbu suspended classes last week.
Rosary College Kondiu (pictured) and Gumine secondary schools put classes on indefinite hold on Friday and students were sent home to await further notice.
Joe Kalasim, a policeman based in Kundiawa whose child is a student at Rosary Kondiu, confirmed that classes at Rosary were suspended.
“Kondiu, yes, we parents are having emergency meeting today (Monday) to discuss how parents can assist ease the delay under the tuition fee free policy of school subsidies” he said.
Later in the day, Mr Kalasim reported that the main resolution of the meeting was that parents would provide food to keep the school functioning until the outstanding fees were released.
He said that notable dignitaries attended at the meeting including the secretary for Kundiawa Catholic Diocese, Bishop Anton Bal, as well as the board of directors, parents and teachers.
Mr Kalasim said the school principal reported that the first term subsidy instalment of K140,000 was used to partially settle debts of K167, 000. The balance of K27, 000 remained outstanding and creditors had closed their doors making it difficult for the school to continue functioning.
My attempt to get Gumine Secondary School principal Bepwick Kutna to comment was unsuccessful but a student from the school who did not want to be named confirmed classes had been suspended indefinitely from Friday.
The student said the school administration told students that if their parents were willing to provide food for them the school would resume. Otherwise it would remain closed until the subsidy from the national government arrived.
Kerowagi, one of the largest secondary schools in the province with over 1,000 students, is sending boarding students home at weekends as a cost saving measure. It is uncertain how long this will keep the school operating.
The experience of Kondiu is not an isolated case. Many schools in Simbu are operating on credit facilities to keep them functioning.
When the subsidy comes, it goes to paying off debt. Then schools again resort to credit facilities to operate in a never-ending vicious circle.
If the government has financial difficulty in paying the fee subsidy on time, prime minister Peter O’Neill and minister for education Nick Kuman must tell the truth to the nation so parents and school governing boards can find alternative ways to continue school education.
They should not play games with the future welfare of the children of this nation by continually delaying or applying piecemeal disbursements of the fee subsidy.
If the truth is made known to the nation, then parents may be able to pay the appropriate fees to keep their children’s learning to the end of the year.
O’Neill and Kuman must immediately disburse the ‘tuition fee free’ subsidy or tell the nation the truth about its inability to pay.