Report and picture by YVONNE HAIP
SUBSISTENCE farmers and unemployed parents in the Western Highlands province have raised concern that increasing school fees and unavailability of space is denying their children their right to education.
Parents, who were accompanying their children to the first day of school yesterday, voiced the same concern throughout all levels of education, except elementary schools that are entitled to free education this year.
They said parents were told to pay all or more than half of the school fees in order for their kids to register and start attending classes, or give up their spaces to those who could pay upfront.
According to a parent, Maklena Las, the burden of paying for school fees seemed to be increasing every year.
She said as an ordinary villager, her family had no steady source of income and two of her older children were both going to attend secondary school.
She said her daughter would be doing Grade 12, while her son would
be doing Grade 9 this year and the school fee is K1,550 and K1,200 respectively.
Mrs Las said for her, this is a lot of money and one of her children would have to withdraw this year and maybe re-enroll next year.
Another parent, David Tasman, said free education for all elementary schools this year was a relief.
He said last year, he paid K100 for his daughter Cynthia to attend elementary school.
However, this year, it was a burden off his shoulder and he commended the National Government for subsidising fees.
He said this effort would help all children in PNG to achieve basic education and also lift the literacy rate in the country.
Meanwhile, some elementary schools in the province were charging the parents school fees even though free education was declared for them.
Zion Tarangau elementary school is charging K100 this year despite free education for elementary under the Universal Basic Education policy launched by Prime Minister Sir Micheal Somare last November in Port Moresby.
When the parents asked about the fees, some schools said they would refund the money as soon as they received the Government’s subsidies.
Schools in the province have not commenced yet and this week is seen as a preparatory week for parents and children.