Editor's Memo: Education system creating classes

File pic: School children

Our education system is a mess. Every year as public schools open for the first term the nation witnesses several events or practices that are a departure from what is usually considered normal.

These aberrations range from a government promising the nation universal free education when it knows fully well that it has no capacity to do so; when it cannot even fulfil a much smaller commitment it has made in the past in the form of the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam).

The Beam was “designed to facilitate enrolment and retention of orphaned and vulnerable children in society by providing them with tuition fees, school levies and examination fees among others”. Many schools have reported that the government has reneged on this commitment by not paying the fees for these disadvantaged children.

Towards the end of last year the same government declared that there would be universal free education beginning this year. How on earth did it reckon it would fund such a huge undertaking when it is struggling with Beam and also when the economy is generally in decline?

 As everyone knows, the school term is in its second week and the promise has fallen flat. No statement has been issued to explain the government’s failure to fulfil this promise.

But this government failure has led to more aberrations in the schools such as headmasters forcing parents to buy uniforms for their children from their schools. At face value this seems like an innocent thing to do because it ostensibly makes the uniforms easily available and ensures the uniforms are the original once the school decreed. But, we all know that this is a sinister move by headmasters to milk parents and guardians of their hard-earned money.

The headmasters usually have interests in the producers of the uniforms or outrightly own the companies. The fact that they charge twice the price of the uniforms on the open market betrays this as they now have a captive customer base.

Not only is this a conflict of interest, it is also profiteering at its most brazen. It would be interesting to find out if such sales are properly documented and audited at the end of the year.

Two parallel education systems have unfortunately emerged out of all this.

While the public education system is dying under the government’s watch, the private education system is flourishing. Private, or Trust, schools charge what they want as fees and parents happily pay because they are assured their children will get a decent education without the interference of unprofessional government fingers. 

The parents are also assured that their children will write examinations that haven’t leaked.

But the tragedy is that these private schools are for the children of the rich. It is the children of the rich who will get into universities and into the professions. This is already creating a classified society, where youths are divided into a privileged upper class and a deprived underclass.

This division is already manifesting in what is now called in street lingo the “Ghetto youths” as against the youths from the affluent suburbs.

The latter class’s hopelessness shows in their habits such as reliance on cheap drugs that are killing them in droves. Or, in the rural areas, the worryingly high levels of school dropouts, is also evidence of a disadvantaged class.

Those from the rich classes have less affinity for habit-forming drugs and in schools are allowed to invent and discover new worlds, while those in public schools are forced to conform to out-dated norms that hinder them from thinking outside the box.

In the end the underclass will be a security threat as it fights the establishment through crime.



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