PNG Schools Close-Down For Lack Of Funds

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More likely to close if tuition fee-free subsidies don’t arrive

By Sheila Malken And Dorothy Mark

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 9, 2015) –Three schools have been closed and more are likely to follow in the second term because of the lack of funds, education officials say.

And the PNG Teachers Association is urging the Government to pay out the tuition fee-free subsidies to schools, based on updated enrolment figures, before classes resume for the second term on April 20.

Madang provincial education division director Moses Sariki said three schools had already sent students home because they had not received the subsidies promised by the State.

Sariki said while the subsidy payments were prompt and orderly in 2013 and 2014, the schools this year were yet to be paid, or were paid amounts much less than what they were expecting.

"This year is worse. Schools are not getting subsidies according to the 2014 enrolment census forms," he said.

"More students have enrolled because of the Government’s free education and compulsory education policies. But the funding or subsidy doesn’t take into account the increase in the number of students." Last year many schools missed out on the subsidy funding.

Government Secretary Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc had announced last week that a three-man team would investigate the use of K1 billion [US$360 million] allocated for education in the past two years.

Sir Manasupe was responding to the threat by some schools, mainly in Morobe and Madang, to close if they did not receive State funding.

[PIR editor’s note: PNG Post-Courier reported that ‘PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill says there must be no excuses for schools to close in term two because K300 million had already been released for free education. ... "This level of incompetence and mismanagement by our officials cannot be excused and tolerated," Mr O’Neill said. ... The Prime Minister, speaking at the University of Papua New Guinea graduation ceremony yesterday, seized the opportunity to respond to media reports that more than 13,000 public schools had opted to close down due to non-release of free education fees. ... "I know all funds for the first half of year totaling K300 million was released for school fees. I do not want to hear excuses, that gives people and our officials reason to divert or misuse money meant for educating our children," he said.’]

Julie Lawrence, a teacher at the Hagita Secondary School in Milne Bay, told The National that the boarding school received only 70 per cent of the tuition fee-free funding this year.

It is likely to close after the first term holidays next week.

"The payment was made according to the number of students we had last year," she said.

"But the number has increased to more than 700 this year.

"We have to pay for food, we are running our own generator here and it is quite difficult to operate with 70 per cent subsidy.

"We might have a problem after resuming classes next term – maybe only for the first two weeks. We have no option."

Principal of the St Ignatius Secondary School in West Sepik Hillary Suamba said they might have to ask parents to pay fees to complete term two.

PNG Teachers Association general secretary Ugwalubu Mowana said the Government must pay schools which had not received anything this year or received only part of their allocation.

He said they welcomed the decision by Sir Manasupe to investigate the K1b allocated to education in the past two years. But in the meantime, the schools must be paid to keep them open.

The conference of the Catholic agencies principals in Port Moresby last month heard that the first payment of the TFF subsidy was less than what schools were expecting based on their enrolment numbers.

Mowana said one of the biggest secondary schools in the National Capital District with 2326 students received only K320,000 [US$115,000] – about 33 per cent of the first payment it was expecting.

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