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Parents should help educate their children

News this week that the government has cut down on the number of students it will sponsor at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) this year has caused a public storm.

We understand the public anger.

For years the government has funded almost all tertiary students, at least those that have decent grades at the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC).

NUL students have been the main beneficiaries of this system.

To cut the number of students so drastically and abruptly was always to trigger some protests and accusations that the government is abdicating its role of educating the young people of this country.

But those that protest vehemently to this decision and throw accusations at the government forget three fundamental issues.

The first one is that these are not normal times and the days of plenty are gone.

We are going through a horrible recession that has forced almost every country in the world to institute some austerity measures.

The reduction in revenues receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu, which used to contribute about 65 percent to Lesotho’s annual budget during the good times, has made the country’s financial position even more precarious. 

Our fortunes have changed dramatically since last year.

Secondly, the responsibility of educating our children cannot be left to the state alone.

If the truth be told, the idea that the government should sponsor every student through tertiary education is skewed because it does not take into account the financial capabilities of the parents.

There is no doubt that there are parents in this country who can afford to fund their children’s university education but, because the government pays, they would rather save their monies.

It defies logic that the government sponsors even the children of senior managers, top civil servants and rich businesspeople in this country.

Thirdly, we seem to forget that we wouldn’t be in this situation if students who were sponsored by the government had paid back their loans.

The idea behind the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) was that it would be a revolving fund.

Graduates were supposed to repay their loans so NMDS can sponsor more students.

But because most of our graduates have not bothered to service their loans or are unemployed, the fund has had to perennially live off the government.

The problem is that while government’s responsibilities have increased over the years its resources have not been expandable.

In a small and fragile economy like ours there are just a few sources from which the state can get revenue.

Already trouble is looming ahead.

Indications are that the government’s financial position will get worse before it gets better.

Those that have been sponsored by government can help make the burden easier by paying their loans.

Well-off families can help by paying university fees for their children.

The decision to cut down on the number of students is a painful but necessary one if the government is to keep funding our tertiary education at all.

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