By Mike Puia
THIS is a question most parents ask at the beginning of each year since 2009.
Footing school fees for one or a couple of kids are stressful, especially after the Christmas and New Year festive period.
This is where the question of ‘where is the Fee Free Basic Education policy’ becomes very relevant.
The question is related to the Basic Education Fee Free (BEFF) policy cabinet approved in 2008 and implemented in 2009.
The BEFF policy apply to years one to nine with the vision that effective implementation of the policy will promote equitable access to quality education for all Solomon Island boys and girls aged six to 15.
The principle in the policy is to abolish all school fees in Public and Church schools for years one to nine.
The policy includes supplementary grants to cover school costs relating to teaching and learning resources and other operational costs.
Since the policy was adopted in 2009, schools are still enforcing various fees to raise additional revenue to fund academic and non-academic pursuits.
Some of these fees include; development fee, caution fee, boarding, parent contribution, textbooks, laboratory and other fees.
Some schools are not implementing the Fee Free policy and are enforcing fees at exceedingly high rates which have impacted on students’ access to education.
There was also uncertainty on whether the high fees charged in schools matches the facilities and the quality of teaching and learning provided in the school.
Obviously, there is lack of proper implementation and monitoring of the BEFF policy.
It was based on this that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD), Dr Franco Rodie, commissioned a research into school fees and contributions charged by Schools late last year.
The research was contracted to Solomon Islands Development Project Solutions (SIDPS) and was conducted in accordance with the terms of reference developed by the MEHRD.
The study was carried out in the 9 provinces including the Honiara city Council, on Government and Non-Government education authorities.
The research was to establish;
- The type of fees and rates charged to students and if they are within the range of fees approved by the Cabinet in 2008.
- The justification or reasons for charging the different types of fees.
- Participants level of knowledge or understanding of the approval process and authority to charge or increase fees.
To date, the results of the research are unknown.
According to Rodie the final report of the research has yet to be submitted to his Ministry for endorsement.
He said they are waiting on the final version of the report from the authors or company that did the study.
Rodie said as soon as his Ministry is provided the final version of the report and formalities are completed and their minister or the cabinet viewed the report then it will be made available to the cabinet and other authorities.