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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Mar. 6) – Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare’s promise to subsidize school fees to the tune of PGK100 million [US$35.7 million] this year has received mixed reactions from other leaders and parents.

The reactions came despite Minister for Education Michael Laimo’s assurance this would reduce the burden faced by parents.

Mr. Laimo had even urged parents to make use of this opportunity by saving up for their children’s fees for next year’s schooling.

Opposition leader Peter O’Neill slammed the announcement as another "election inducement."

"Obviously, it is an election-related inducement that is unplanned and unbudgeted … a clear indication of the Government losing grip of what is happening in the country," Mr. O’Neill said.

He said the money would never reach the people, and urged the Government to instead use it to retire debts, or spend it on health, roads and bridges.

Philip Kiap, a father of a Grade 9 student attending Minj High School, said the PGK100 million-school fee subsidy would make parents lazy and would even make the students lax at school.

He said that his son would know that he didn’t pay too much money for his school fee so he would not concentrate well in his studies.

"We, parents and guardians, work hard to raise the money for school fees … so they also work very hard in class to impress us because they know the hardship we go through to find the money," he said.

Mr. John Rumints, a father of a Grade 11 attending Hagen Secondary, said even though he would be paying less fees, the PGK100 million subsidy is more like free education.

Rumints said from past experience where the provincial government subsidized all the school fees, the academic performance of the students were very poor and many didn’t make it to other big tertiary institutions in the country.

He welcomed the announcement by Sir Michael to remove the burdens on the parents but said it is "detrimental" to the education of their children.

Rumints said many schools in the province and throughout the country did not have proper learning facilities.

This money should instead be distributed to all the provincial schools to be used in buying learning materials and books or in improving school facilities.

But Mrs. Betty Agua, from Kerowagi district, said the subsidy would be a "big relief" for parents like her.

Agua has a daughter doing Grade 10 at the Kerowagi Secondary and another two attending Amdi Primary School doing Grade 7 and 4.

She said she and her husband John found it hard to raise enough money for school fees.

Rita Umba and her husband Koima Paulus, who works as a carpenter on hire basis, are happy because they get requests from their clansmen to assist them, apart from finding money for their own children.

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