South Africa: School fee promise good news in principle
President Thabo Mbeki's promise to eliminate fees in the poorest 20% of schools in South Africa is meaningless without a deadline, says EI's affiliate.
The president pledged in his state of the nation address, last week, to eliminate fees at poor schools but did not say when this would happen. "It's been very difficult to get a commitment from government," said Jon Lewis, a spokesman for EI affiliate the South African Democratic Teachers' Union, after the speech. "If Mbeki's promise means this year, that's great. If there was no deadline given, that doesn't mean much." The South African government has promised that some state schools would stop charging fees so that the poorest parents would be able to send their children to school since 2002. However, Education Minister Naledi Pandor and her predecessor, Kader Asmal, have missed the 2004 and 2005 deadlines to pass legislation granting this reprieve. Last year Pandor said the poorest 20% of schools would not charge fees from the start of this school year, but this did not happen when schools opened last month.