Access to free education has been a controversial issue especially among some of the local people who have been unable to get spaces in the public schools for both elementary and secondary education.
While many locals have secured places in the private schools for their children and have been doing so for many years, the financial situation for many local families has changed since the emergence of COVID 19 and so many families want their children in the public schools as they cannot afford to pay the school fees in the private sector.
The Government has a program in place with some private schools whereby if the public schools are full, the Government will subsidize some of the private schools (by paying the salary of a teacher) to accommodate the children that were not able to secure places in the public schools. However, it still appears that many local children were not able to benefit and so many parents have to pay the full fee in a private school.
Successive Governments and the current Government have stated our country has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which they are obligated to abide by and in that declaration is Article 26 that addresses the right to education.
Article 26 of UDHR
- Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
- Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
- Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
The Right to Education
I do believe that everyone should have the right to education. After all, we do not want to have a society with children staying home and not receiving an education because it can lead to many social problems.
Article 26 states that education should be free at least in the elementary and fundamental stages and as result Governments have built schools to accommodate the demand for primary and secondary education but yet many of the local people are unable to get a space. As the country grows and with the migration of individuals to the country, providing free education and building more classroom space will become a financial burden. Yes I know we should not put a price tag for the education of individuals. In addition, the quality of education can be compromised with the oversized classrooms and teachers struggling to teach children who cannot speak English.
I know of some individuals that are on work permits and have children had to show proof to Immigration that their children are registered in a private school. However, many other work permit holders were able to get their children in the public schools. Where does Article 26 come into effect here?
- I do not think the Government should build more primary schools. It appears that is the plan of the New Government.
- I think the priority of a Government should be its citizens. If the citizens are their priority and many of the citizens have their children in private schools, the Government needs to expand the subsidy program by providing a subsidy to all private schools for the locals and the private schools must guarantee a reduction in the school fees for the locals. I believe that a subsidy program will be more efficient and cheaper than building more classrooms.
- I think everyone should learn to speak English before they enter schools. If not, then recruit teachers who can teach English as second language.
- I believe that countries need to review this Article 26 and lobby with United Nations to remove the word free and replace it with access to education.
I know no Government or country wants to violate an agreement they signed such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, providing free education to all should not be at the expense of citizens. People are struggling to make ends meet but they do want their children to be in oversized classes and so they are forced to pay the high school fees to a private school where the ratio of students to teacher is smaller than that in the public school.