Vunagi says students should not be denied their right to education
BY MAVIS N PODOKOLO
Governor General Sir David Vunagi has called for a review of the secondary school fee system in the country.
He said children should not be denied the right to education just because their parents could not afford the fees schools charged.
“We must realise about 80 percent of parents whose children are in secondary and tertiary institutions live in the rural areas and rely heavily on subsistence means,” Vunagi, an educationist by profession, said in his New Year’s nationa-wide address.
“For such parents no fee, no school is a major obstacle because the level of fees charged is just beyond their means,” he added.
“If data has been compiled about the number of students who withdrew from formal education during the last two or three decades because of difficulties in payment of fees, we would be surprised to see how we have continued to operate very unfair system of education.
“It would be also difficult to understand why and how school authorities happily allow students to leave because fee is the issue of contention.”
Vunagi, who is also a retired bishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, said a progressive system of education should not allow a discriminative aspect to be attached to it but drastic reduction of student’s enrolment from 8000 to 5000 in semester one 2021 is a classic example.
“It is good that primary education is free of charge but consideration should also be given to make secondary and tertiary education basically affordable to assist self-employed fee payers.
“We need to explore the possibility of charging consensual fees or provide soft loan schemes to assist students who are determined to pursue studies with predictable positive results.
“To be silent about the principles of no fee no school, only supports marginalisation, social exclusion and poverty that will further increase the gap between the haves and the have not.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development says school across the country will start classes for this year on 24 January.