O'Neill: govt to foot 75% of school fee bill next year

30/08/2011 18:54


PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill today pledged to subsidise up to 75 per cent in school fee costs for Papua New Guinean children.

The country’s Education Department estimates 2 million children have reached school age with only 1.2 million attending classes. The other 800,000 remain in their villages due to their families’ inability to pay school fees.

Addressing students at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), Mr O’Neill said all students from the elementary level of education to grade 12 will not pay school fees.

“I have announced as a matter of policy that starting in January next year, education will be free from elementary class to grade 10 and for grades 11 and 12, the government will provide 75 per cent school fee subsidy. Of course, the parents and families will be responsible for the continued upbringing of the child. No child will be pushed out of the education system at Grade 8,” he said.

Mr O’Neill said the government can foot the bill as estimates provided by the Education Department put the cost of subsidised education at around K700 million.

“To show our commitment and determination, a K350 million free education trust account will be set up under the supplementary budget that our government will pass next week,” he added.

The education subsidy heads a list of major education policy changes that the O’Neill government has announced following its election into office early this month. The others include the reintroduction of the national scholarship scheme and the dumping of the controversial outcome based education (OBE).

The rollout of the OBE system since 2000 has been plagued by infrastructure and logistics problems, which the PNG acting education secretary Dr Joseph Pagelio confirmed during a recent visit to the Western Highlands province.

The O’Neill government’s foray into subsidised education is not a first by a government close to a general election. In 2002 the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government of former Prime Minister Mekere Morauta made similar pledges but were decimated at the polls by the National Alliance Party (NA).