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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 11:20 GMT
Botswana brings back school fees
Children learning traditional dances
Rural families will be worst affected by the decision
Botswana has announced the reintroduction of fees in its state secondary schools after more than 20 years of free education.

The measure will affect over 170,000 children aged between 13 and 18.

The government says the move is part of a cost-cutting exercise because of falling revenues.

Botswana's Education Minister, Jacob Nkate, described the new fees as "a pittance" and said that parents had a duty to share the burden of the cost.

Pupils at Community Secondary Schools will pay 194 pula ($36) a year, while a year at a senior secondary school will cost 452 pula ($84).

Opponents of the charges, including teaching unions, say the fees will deter parents from sending their children to school.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Having taught in Botswana I see this move as spelling the end of what is an excellent education system
Derek Moore, Truro, UK

Families will be means tested and there will be some exemptions for the poorest.

The BBC's Lucas Letlhogile in Gaborone says rising unemployment means that many poor people will not be able to afford fees, and that rural farmers with an irregular income will be worst affected.

He says the government has been trying, through the media, to create the impression that most citizens are keen to pay fees.

South African promises

Meanwhile, in neighbouring South Africa there are concerns over the government's failure to provide free schools to the poorest children, despite repeated promises.

students peeping from broken windows
South Africans are still waiting for free schools

As schools reopen after the summer holidays, Education Minister Naledi Pandor has said the government is committed to introducing no-fee schools in the poorest neighbourhoods.

"Ensuring access to education for all in our country remains a priority," Mrs Pandor said, pointing out that two provinces had started to identify schools to be declared no-fee schools.

But critics pointed out that an initiative to offer free schooling to 40% of South African pupils was first promised in 2002, but had not yet been put into practice.

"The ministry of education is highly irresponsible," South African Democratic Teachers' Union general secretary Thulas Nxesi told The Star newspaper.

"We had hoped that the figure would be more than 40% by now."


SEE ALSO:
Is free education valued enough?
11 Jan 06 |  Have Your Say
Call for free African schools
09 Jul 03 |  Africa
Country profile: Botswana
03 Nov 05 |  Country profiles
Mozambique's crowded classrooms
16 Sep 05 |  Africa


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