By Cedric Swanka
The Ministry of Basic Education says Government spent money running into millions to pay for private school fees for children of former BCL Limited employees.
Speaking in Parliament last week, the Assistant Minister of Basic Education Thato Kwerepe said “my ministry has undertaken to pay school fees for children of former BCL employees in private schools such as Morula, Kopano and Mount Pleasant”.
Kwerepe said his ministry has realized that a number of children were enrolled in schools outside Selebi Phikwe, in Francistown and Gaborone for example and these have also been assisted.
Kwerepe continued to say “The initiative is part of a number of initiatives introduced when the mine was closed. For my ministry the plan was to provide an education subsidy to parents of primary and secondary school children who were enrolled in private institutions for a period of 15 months up to the end of 2017.”
“This was then extended up to December 2018 and then to allow children to move into public schools thereafter. Other than the Ministry of Education, committing to paying school fees for children of former BCL employees in private schools, my ministry did not commit to any other incentive or any plans to accord such to parents and pupils,” Kwerepe said.
The junior minister shared how Government is also assisting parents of children currently attending public schools. He continued to say “my ministry is assisting all parents of pupils attending public schools through the provision of free primary education.”
“In addition, cost sharing, which is applied to Secondary Education, is Means Tested to ensure that children of parents on low income access free Secondary Education.” Kwerepe said.
Assistant minister however said “my ministry is not providing any special assistance to parents who were previously BCL employees and whose children are currently enrolled in public schools. It is important to point that my ministry provides equal access and opportunity for all children enrolled in public schools.”
For parents and pupils attending public schools the ministry is said to be assisting with relatively free education, but with cost sharing like on other kids.
“If for some reason, the social economic status of parents is going to be very low, the parents may after assessment qualify for existing programme assistance policies as in the current practice.” Assistant Minister Kwerepe said.
Kwerepe was answering on behalf of the Minister, as Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe west Dithapelo Keorapetse tabled a few questions in parliament.
Keorapetse asked the Minister of Basic Education to update Parliament on payment of school fees for children of former BCL employees in private schools such as Morula, Kopano and Mount Pleasant.
He also asked that the minister fully explain the plan including what other incentives are accorded to parents and pupils besides tuition fees and how parents of pupils attending public schools are assisted by his ministry.
Additionally Assistant Minister Kwerepe shared that “I understand that the BCL Mine was paying some small allowances to its employees who had children enrolled in public schools such as Uniform Allowances etc.”
“In the first year of this initiative it seems we paid some small other allowances to some schools such as sports allowance or similar, “Kwerepe said.