All of us are accustomed to believing that secondary education is free and accessible for all. But, is it really free as we have been thinking? Certainly, at a legislative level we all are right because the Law on Education dictates that “the state provides citizens with free pre-school, primary, middle and secondary education”. Kazakhstani government provides all public schools with funding. However, most parents are familiar with “school fees” or “school funds” which are not indicated as obligatory in main legislative documents about education. The paying of school fee is a widespread practice which few parents take seriously and dare to talk about in public. In order to understand the origin of the issue of school fees, it is important to explain the motives of school administration to demand money and parents’ reluctance to pay.
First of all, we should examine on what reasons teaching staff and administration of schools claim and demand money. The most common reasons are
- farewell ceremony of commissions,
- purchase of school inventory,
- maintenance of school,
- school meals,
- school books,
- school celebrations and productions,
- presents for teachers and principals and even household goods.
They can collect money from parents weekly, monthly, or annually. The amount of money can vary. It depends on what they ask for. Also, there are some exceptions to the mentioned above. For instance, there were a couple of extraordinary cases which happened in Oskemen and Aktobe. Parents were forced to collect money for SECURITY and VIDEO SURVEILLANCE. It is definitely an illegal act to collect money for such reasons! According to the Law on Education, parents are not obligated to pay for these things which have just been mentioned. All of these must be free of charge for school students and their parents.
To find a guilty or responsible person for these illegal deeds is a pretty difficult job. It seems clear to all concerned that the teaching staff and school administration are guilty for demanding money. Notwithstanding their supposed guilt, they are also victims of this situation just as the parents are. Every year schools get certain amounts of money from the local budget which does not cover all of the schools’ needs. Hence, they have to ask for financial support from parents. As a last resort, they have to pay themselves. As you know, teachers get low salaries. Can you imagine how they suffer from it? It is a common practice for the principals to force teaching staff to demand money from school children. Teachers write some notes about school needs in the students’ school diaries or call parents. Moreover, the principal and teachers can invite parents to a school meeting where they announce about the school’s needs. Consequently, parents know about unpredictable expenditures.
Almost every mother and father in Kazakhstan know that sometimes it is better to pay than to ask for what and why they are paying. It is a widespread practice that parents give money to their children who give it to teachers. The motive for paying money is very simple: they do not want to make their children’s lives worse in school. Parents do not want to see their children treated as black sheep. School students can be threatened by expulsion from school or can get bad marks on final exams (UNT) thus the parents get badly affected as well. Indeed, parents are afraid of all the factors mentioned above. If parents cannot allocate finances from the family budgets students can be humiliated by teachers and principals in class or in public. In many cases parents pay without asking any questions. Deputy Kamal Burhanov states that 76% of parents gave money several times, 26% did regularly and 47% had experienced with this issue.
There is a hotline “150” set up which can help children to overcome these problems. This line concerns problems relating to financial demands. The worst thing about this situation is that children are so powerless. Even though it is officially forbidden in Kazakhstani schools, it still occurs. I hope that this issue can be solved. As the Law on Education stresses every child has the right to free education.