THE Free Education Policy has been a relief for many parents whose children were recipients over the past decade.
Former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill rose to political stardom riding on the crest of this well-loved sugar coated policy, a political bait that was too tempting to swallow without second thoughts by parents and students alike.
The policy played its trick in the numbers game in two national elections and the Peoples National Congress Party (PNC) favourably enjoyed unparalleled fame and popularity on the floor of parliament.
Everyone believed that O’Neill’s dynasty shall endure forever without dissolution as the free education policy liberated masses of people held in the claws of financial constraints.
The policy has indirectly added the green back into the pockets of ordinary Papua New Guineans and more children found themselves in schools compared to our previous past.
Like in any great story where all good things come to an end, O’Neill’s free education policy may be flushed out due to a policy change that seems to loom on the horizon of the catch phrase ‘Take back PNG’.
It is already an interesting agenda of debate on social media and this has to be revealed to the ordinary people soon enough so that a change of policy does not take them by surprise.
Prime Minister James Marape remains vocal in pushing for a review on many policies instituted by the previous government and the Tuition Fee Free Policy (TFF) is presumably one of them that will certainly come under the radar as he aspires to take back PNG.
While it may be considered a patriotic move to share the financial and economic affliction by all right thinking citizens, the TFF policy must be one that has to be amicably addressed, considering many other factors that may affect the education of thousands of unfortunate children across the country.
At the height of severe monetary crises this nation has ever seen in more than four decades, doing away with the TFF policy may bear a striking resemblance to the strangling wires of a hangman around the gullet of an already financially over laden and starved population.
It is of the view that the cost of education at all levels will soar higher than anything we have ever witnessed in the short history of this nation since independence.
Though critics would often express profound disappointment in the way the TFF policy was implemented throughout schools in the country, it is of relative significance that some reservations must be made to retain the policy instead of effacing it completely if the Marape-Davis Government proposes a change.
The change of policy, if any, may be of short notice and must be deliberated thoroughly prior to its implementation and would be a wise decision to defer it to 2020.
This will perhaps provide ample time for the preparation of fees but again meeting the hike in fees in full shall remain a remote possibility by most parents and students.
And surely it will be another day in hell for many students who hail from disadvantaged homes.
A drop in the number of school age children in public institutions is imminent.
It is up to the government of the day to uphold the TFF policy or better still devise alternative remedial measures to support the education of our young people if it comes up with a plan to abolish the free education policy.
Should the government however act on impulse without proper planning, it is probable the education of thousands of students shall be brought into jeopardy.
Education must be given a fair share of support should the government aspire to move this country forward, in terms of human resource development.
Hence, changes made must be limited to certain boundaries instead of proposing biasedly radical changes that may affect the lives of thousands of innocent children across the country as they pursue their dreams in education.