Is Our Free Education Free?
In Sierra Leone, most of our laws exist in theory, not in practice; we are inclined to disobey the very laws we enact. Since the government of this republic enacted the law of free education in primary schools, primary education has never been free and has been retrogressing progressive, a situation that can largely be blamed on the woeful failure of government to promptly pay fees subsidies to the mushrooming primary schools in the country.
It is an open secret that most public primary schools have been undergoing serious financial constraints due to the persistent delay in the payment of fees subsidies meant to run the schools. This has been compelling many school heads to violate the Free Education Act by demanding money from parents just to keep their schools functioning.
We have been observing that most of these lawless school heads that keep violation governments free education law use the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) as a cover. Many school heads who demand extra charges always argue that they are mandated by the PTA to collect such monies after a big meeting attended by representatives from the Education Ministry and other stakeholders and that there is a minute to the effect. This has always been their escape route as the PTA, according to them, has the right to give financial and other forms of assistance to its school.
We would be unfair with the primary school heads if we castigate them for circumventing the free education law as they impelled by the irregular payment of woefully insufficient school fees subsidies though many of them misuse the subsidies to fatten their pockets. Parents and guardians end up bearing the brunt f the ugly situation as they are often requested to pay the various taxes levied by the school heads.
The irregular payment of subsidies has been undermining the effectiveness of primary education as most of the primary schools are economically stranded. The situation has been compounded by the failure of government to approve and pay hundreds of so-called volunteer teachers many of whom are in the primary sector. This has inflicted an extra economic burden on the already financially stranded primary schools many of whose heads confess using part of the subsidies to give stipend to the stranded teachers.
If we are talking about quality education, we should place premium on primary education which is the foundation on which secondary and tertiary education rest. Without proper primary education, there will be no proper secondary and tertiary education; that is just the plain truth.
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