Parents, guardians stressed over school stationery

BACK TO SCHOOL … Magdalena Gaingos (right) says she battles with stress this time of the year as she is compelled to take out a loan to buy her four grandchildren back-to-school stationery. Photo: Henry van Rooi

As the new year unfolds, parents and guardians are experiencing mounting pressure to prepare their children for the new academic year.

Among them is Magdelena Gaingos (71) from Katutura, who says she will have to take out a loan to tick off some school items on her grandchildren’s stationery list.

“I have four grandchildren who are all in primary school, and who I take care of. Buying their stationery means I would need to take out a short loan.

“I will buy books with the money I get, and they will divide it among themselves and then buy the remaining stationery when the month ends,” she says.

Also preparing his children for school, which is set to start on 15 January, is Andreas Hausiku, who says his only challenge is struggling to get hold of the required stationery.

“But there is still enough time for me to get all the required school items,” he says. Joseph Nantangwe encourages parents to invest in a good education for their children’s future. “I would like to encourage all parents to invest in their children’s education so they can grow up to have a good future,” he says.

The minister of education, arts and culture, Anna Ngipondoka, has previously urged parents to demand accountability reports from schools on how they spend the ministry’s money.

She said schools require parents to buy stationery, while the government has allocated a budget to this.

“As a parent, you must demand to know how much the school has received from the government, what the school did with the money, and why you must contribute,” Nghipondoka said. “Get involved in your child’s education and make sure quality education takes place with your contribution. Do what you can to assist, but only if accountability is provided,” the minister said.

Nghipondoka said funds are distributed to regional offices and sent to schools to take care of their needs.

“Contributions must be done with caution, because the Education Act says ‘voluntary contribution’,” she said. Executive director of education, arts and culture Sanet Steenkamp reiterated her previous comments on the issue yesterday.

She said parents should only buy what they can afford.

The ministry makes budgets for cleaning materials available to schools, she said. “We must also take note of other considerations . . . that funds are not always dispersed in a timely manner, because of competing priorities,” Steenkamp said.

This comes amid some schools distributing long shopping lists, including stationery, toilet paper and cleaning materials.

Steenkamp, however, said asking parents to contribute to their children’s stationery needs is not inappropriate, although they should only buy what they can. She said parents should not be pressured into buy everything on schools’ lists. “We need to apply our minds when buying, considering the lack of resources. If a parent can buy one bottle of glue, it’s enough. They don’t have to buy three bottles of glue, for instance,” she said.

STATIONERY FUNDS

Last year, the ministry budgeted about N$88,8 million for stationery.

“These funds have been transferred to regional education directorates to purchase stationery for schools or to allow schools which are able to to purchase their own materials,” Nghipondoka said. According to the minister, stationery funds should strictly be used to buy teaching and learning materials.

Ohangwena education director Isack Hamatwi last year said accountability is a legal issue. He said schools are expected to provide parents with audited financial reports. “There is a guide available which stipulates how the education grant should be used and what to prioritise first, and so on,” Hamatwi said. The director said the region procured enough materials for schools in October, which were delivered. “These materials cost us around N$2 million . . . I do not expect schools to start demanding stationery from parents this time. It is not good,” he said.

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