EDUCATION Minister Mampono Khaketla must leave no stone unturned in the government’s push for total transformation of the education sector.
Her intervention was long overdue.
I welcome the minister’s intervention as it is consistent with the nation’s goal to totally revamp Lesotho’s education system.
The purpose of this article is to critically look at the government’s decision to shut down illegal schools.
The article will zero in on certain practices by the illegal schools which justify why they qualify to be described as bogus schools.
I will also look at the effects of inefficient school supervision and inspection.
My understanding of the matter is influenced by the students’ charter on productive education for social change.
I am fully aware of the frustrations and anxiety the government’s decision to shut down the schools will have on operators.
Most of these illegal schools are notorious for charging exorbitant fees to students.
They were also virtually untouchable as parents could not hold them to account for any transgressions.
The schools were also notorious for holding private classes during the winter vacations and school holidays where teachers charged exorbitant fees.
It was clear that these bogus schools were opened solely to enrich their proprietors by charging exorbitant fees.
On the other hand public schools also had similar private classes organised by teachers who charge extra monies during vacations and after-hours.
In most cases these classes are conducted right there on the school premises in violation of section 7 (2) of the Education Act.
The Act states that “where a school provides independent instruction to learners . . . such instruction shall be deemed to be a separate school and shall also be registered as such”.
For a school to be registered under the new Act, it must have a board of directors and a constitution approved by the Ministry of Education.
The buildings and facilities must meet the basic standards set by the government.
The school must satisfy the government that it has enough financial resources to be able to operate viably.
But most school boards are barely functional.
Decisions regarding how the school is managed are often left to the whims of school principals when they should instead include parents and students’ representatives.
The new law says the government will have to assess a school’s financial viability.
But this is almost impossible as the majority of our schools do not publish their financial statements as they have no school boards.
Parents are virtually in the dark regarding how principals make decisions on the management of their schools.
The only time that parents are engaged is normally during parents’ meetings.
But teachers rarely delve into financial matters preferring to dwell on general problems affecting the school.
Financial matters remain largely unknown.
This is the reason why some principals find it easy to embezzle school funds.
We have also had instances where some teachers deliberately fail to keep pace with the school syllabus to create opportunities to have more students enrolling for their private lessons.
Parents are often forced by circumstances to pay for these extra lessons after being told that their children were slow learners.
The abovementioned issues are typical examples of the shoddy manner that the Ministry of Education is supervising schools.
The supervisory system is either weak or virtually non-existent.
It is almost a given that inferior education that is fed to the majority of Basotho entrenches undemocratic ideas.
Such an education is unproductive as it produces a mass of frustrated, unemployed and unemployable people.
The Education Charter that was drafted by the Young Christian Movement says education must be geared towards production, not consumption.
It must also reflect the history, life and culture of the people it is serving.
The charter encouraged all stakeholders including students to work towards a system that leads to free, compulsory and relevant education for all, in a united democratic Kingdom of Lesotho based on the needs of the people.
The students’ charter was the culmination of several students’ efforts which started in 1988.
The minister should leave no stone unturned in efforts to transform our education system by refocusing on the role of public schools.