Doors to learning widenwith more no-pay schools

THE Limpopo department of education this year increased the number of no-fee schools in the province from 2978 to 3892.

THE Limpopo department of education this year increased the number of no-fee schools in the province from 2978 to 3892.

The latest development has seen the enrolment of children in primary and secondary schools in rural areas increase from 67 percent to 82 percent since the announcement of no-fee-schools in 2006.

The move has also seen more children from poor families, especially in rural areas, enrolling at schools.

It has also resulted in a slight decrease in the drop-out rates of children from poor communities, the department said yesterday.

Department MEC Dickson Masemola said during his budget speech on Friday in Lebowakgomo that more pupils at both primary and high schools are benefitting from the no-fee policy.

The department has classified schools according to the background of the communities in which they are found.

Schools in poor communities were classified as quintile 1 and 2 and those in working-class communities, especially in townships, are classified as quintile 3. Schools in wealthy communities are classified as quintile four and five.

"Previously only children from primary and secondary schools that fall under quintile 1 and 2 benefitted from the programme, while those in quintile three, four and five were paying school fees," Masemola said.

"Today we have children from both primary and secondary school in quintile one, two and three benefitting from the no-fee school programme."

Masemola said of the 4015 schools in the province the parents of children in 3892 schools, both primary and secondary, would not pay fees this financial year.

He said parents of children in another 940 schools that fall under quintile 3, most of which are in townships, would not be paying school fees this financial year.

Masemola said the move was in line with the Freedom Charter that states that "the doors of learning and culture shall be opened to all."

But the system of classification has left some in the education arena baffled.

Some say that Majeje High School outside Phalaborwa and Masopha High in GaMatipane outside Modjadjiskloof are typical of schools the department has incorrectly classified.

Majeje High is located next to Lulekani township, where a total of 94 percent of children enrolled come from some of South Africa's poorest villages in Matsamainkani and Matiko-Shikaya, but the school is classified as quintile 4.

Others say Masopha High is also found in a poor community but it was classified as quintile 3.

"This is so because the department did not consult all stakeholders when classifying the schools," said Sadtu provincial chairman Ronny Moroatshehla yesterday.

"Now we are swimming in a pool of confusion."