‘Changing TFF was a mistake’


CHANGING the free education policy was a mistake and Prime Minister James Marape has admitted it last week, Opposition Leader Beldan Namah says.
“Marape revealed this when he announced that the Government will revert to the full tuition fee free education for children from grades 1 to 12,” he said.
“Marape has claimed this is a Government measure to alleviate the suffering of parents hit hard by Covid-19.
“With or without the Covid-19, parents have always struggled with school fees.”
“Marape’s 37/67 split last year put two million students out of school.
“It is anybody’s guess what the basis for the 37/67 calculations were.
“Education should not be toyed with.
“Education should never be a flexible policy that is up for review year on year as announced by Marape and his Education Minister Jimmy Uguro.
“The shift in standards based education to outcome-based education and back again to standards-based education has caused so much confusion in the education system of our country.
“It does not warrant a year on year shifting school fees policy as well.
“That announcement reveals that the Government lacks a long-term strategy and policy on something as important as education.
“Marape has been Education minister for many years under the O’Neill Government.
“He should know.
What he is revealing now is like saying he is saying he will experiment with education policies using our children as subjects.
“He proved that when he changed a working tuition fee free (TFF) education system to a 37/63 split between parents and the Government.
Now he is back with TFF.
“Education is a long-term commitment.
“Children go through six years of primary education and four years of high school and secondary education before they enter tertiary education. Those are important years to educate and cultivate future citizens and requires a stable, undisturbed policy environment.
“A shifting tuition policy impacts the teaching environment and interrupts children education because issues of fees collection and administration interrupts school operations big time.
“If the 2 million children who could not attend school this year return to school next year when TFF is reintroduced, they will be one grade behind.
“Classrooms will have to be found for them.
“Teacher-student ratio will be increased beyond capacity.
“This is the impact of ill-planned, on-the-go, cut-and-paste, knee-jerk policies.
“Marape has realised his mistake.
“He knows the school fees issue will sink his Government in the general election next year, so he is changing back again.
“Unfortunately, his mistakes are costing the education and future of too many young children.
“The very children he promised not to leave behind with his get-rich-quick, take back PNG slogan where he promised not to leave a child behind.
“He will also change tact too on his higher education loan programme (Help) for tertiary education because that is a far worse disaster.
“Students at the University of Papua New Guinea have told me they are still trying to access Help halfway through the academic year.
“I have been saying all along that governments cannot operate in a policy and planning vacuum.
“However, many people in the country and in the Government have chosen Marape’s slogans and mantra over common sense and reality.
“Now, we have come a full circle when we realise that some slogans do not match reality.”