This year’s first-time fee waivers for primary and pre-school students in Togo have swelled enrolment, raising questions about how schools will fund additional classroom space, teachers and school supplies.
Education experts said the government should have planned better before lifting school fees.
Until this year, male students paid up to US$4 per year and female students about half that.
Primary school director Tchagara Tchabana in the central Togo village of Yelivo told IRIN his students’ fees had covered his classroom expenses. “The government has promised money from what I lost in school fees to cover additional staff and supplies, but I have still not received anything. My school was already falling apart even before the increased enrolment.”
Tchabana said 45 new students enrolled this year, increasing his school size to 314 students. He said he spent about $70 of his own money to purchase supplies including six boxes of crayons, chalk, 20 notebooks and nails to repair classroom furniture.
But the Ministry of Education’s Secretary General Ayayi A. Kudjoh told IRIN directors had been given their standard classroom allowance at the start of the academic year in October, and that an increase to cover any additional students is coming shortly.
“We are conducting student counts to verify how much each school will receive based on their increase in enrolment. We have already instructed the schools to set up local bank accounts so that we can make the deposits. If they have done as they are supposed to, they will receive the money.”
But director Tchabana said he had not received any such instructions and that parents have also been confused about the new no-fee policy. “They think that everything related to schooling suddenly became free and have quit contributing for the community-recruited teacher whom the state does not pay.”
In this village’s sole primary school, six teachers are each paid $120 per month by the state, while the seventh teacher is paid by voluntary parent contributions, according to Tchabana.
The Ministry of Education estimated at the end of 2008 that to cover increased enrolment, it needed to recruit more than 3,000 new teachers, build more than 5,000 new classrooms and almost 100,000 school benches, and purchase hundreds of thousands
Photo: Phuong Tran/ IRIN
|School directors in Togo are reconfiguring their classrooms to accommodate more students|
of new textbooks. The government estimates pre-school enrolment has increased by 54 percent and primary school by 12 percent. The split is almost even between male and female students.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has welcomed the fee waivers, but said that the government should have prepared better before launching the initiative. “The education system [in Togo] has been neglected for two decades,” said UNICEF’s education officer Mamadou Lamine Sow.
“The teacher training school was closed. There are certain steps that must be taken before abolishing fees," said Sow. "What are the costs? What type of fees should be abolished? How to reinforce the infrastructure and maintain the quality of education?”
The government has estimated that increased enrolment from the fee-waivers will cost it more than $5 million.
UNICEF’s Sow questioned how much the Education Ministry’s regional representatives could have informed and prepared school directors when they do not have the transportation monies to visit schools, especially remote ones.
Also, cash transfers to get funds to the schools are “difficult” given the country’s “weak banking system” said Sow.
Togo has pledged to make education universal by the year 2015 as part of the Millennium Development Goals. In 2006, 76 percent of school-aged students were enrolled in primary school, but only 61 percent completed primary education, according to the government.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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