The Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Education, Nomsa Zuze, says that there will be no blanket exemption from paying school fees by parents of students in Ngamiland where cattle sales have been frozen because of the outbreak of Foot and Mouth in the district.
Zuze said that the decision on this was reached by the Ministry and that the decision was made because of financial constraints.
”There will be no blanket exemption because the government can not afford doing so,” she said, adding that it is also true that some parents in the affected areas have other means, other than sales of livestock, from which they can raise money to pay for their children’s school fees. Such people, she said, could not be allowed to hide from their responsibility of paying school fees just because of the outbreak of this disease.
”Lets face the facts; not all the parents are farmers or wholly dependent on the sale of cattle to pay school fees for their children or for a living. Such parents are expected to pay school fees as they have been doing. It will be improper to allow such parents not to pay school fees on the guise that they are unable to pay the school fees because of the outbreak of foot and mouth,” she added.
Zuze was quick to point out that deserving cases will be treated on merit. According to her, if there is genuine evidence that a student’s parents can not pay school fees because they were fully dependent on the sale of cattle such a student would be treated as a destitute and would be exempted from paying school fees as is the case with other destitutes.
”In short, these matters will be treated on a one by one basis and where there is evidence of lack of resources because of the outbreak of the disease such students will be helped,” she said.
Some people in Ngamiland are calling for an overall exemption of that area from paying school fees because of the outbreak of the disease.
As an example, they cited a past case in the mid 80s when the government of former president Ketumile Masire chose to exempt them saying that this is what caring leaders do in such instances.
”This problem needs a blanket exercise , it is not right to exempt other students whilst others will still be expected to pay on the pretext that their parents are not wholly dependent on cattle, “ said one Gaborone resident, who says he will now have to help pay for his nephews in Ngamiland because his parents are wholly dependent on cattle.
The issue of asking the government from exempting affected parents from paying school fees was recently the subject of debate at a kgotla meeting addressed by Vice President Ian Khama in Maun. The issue was raised by Councillor Galaletsang Mhapha, who said that, as there had been an outbreak of foot and mouth in the area, government should exempt them from the payment of school fees and bank loans should be frozen.
Other reports from Maun are that some residents of Ngamiland are planning to travel to Gaborone to meet President Mogae on the matter and plead for exemption from paying school fees and to freeze payment on bank loans.