By Benny Geteng – EM TV, Port Moresby
There are 3,380 out of 13,703 schools in the country who have not received their Tuition Fee Free (TFF) payments for 2014 because of lack of action by provinces.
Education Secretary Dr. Michael Tapo is blaming the lack of action by provinces and said that the K605 million TFF budget for 2014 has been sent to holding accounts at the banks, waiting to be released to schools as soon as they have supplied the verification data that is required.
According to Tapo, The Department of Education (DOE) is no longer holding onto the TFF funding for 2014.
The National Education Board (NEB), sitting at Alotau, Milne Bay Province, was given the figures in a TFF report by the DOE. The board, the top education decision-making body in the country, called for all Provincial Education Boards to supply TFF data by the end of January each year to avoid delays in money reaching schools.
The 13,703 schools registered for TFF have 1.73 million students enrolled. They include 7,181 elementary schools, 3,854 primary schools and 218 secondary and high schools.
Therefore, about a third of schools have not yet received their TFF payments for 2014, according to the DOE figures.
The NEB agreed to advise the Minister for Education not to implement a proposal to hand over distribution of TFF funds to the provinces, because of the administrative failures in some provinces.
The DOE is now analyzing the results of a trial, launched in Enga Province in response to a National Executive Council decision, of the payment of TFF funding directly into the provincial treasury account.
Under TFF this year, Morobe Province has the largest number of unpaid schools by far, with 590 schools and thousands of children affected. Sandaun Province is second to them, with 398 schools without TFF funds.
Meanwhile, Manus Province has only 16 schools who have not received their TFF payments.
The DOE school numbers include all registered educational institutions.
One reason for non-payment of TFF has been that schools asked the DOE to send TFF money to dormant bank accounts, which meant that they could not access the money.
Dr Tapo told the NEB that next year the DOE would move to abolish the continued demand for project fees from parents, despite the introduction of TFF. However, school boards and agencies have the legal right under the Education Act to impose fees.