---By Gertrude Kitongo
My name is Gertrude Kitongo. I am one of the 10% international students at the CIDA (Community and Individual Development Association) City Campus in Johannesburg. I am Kenyan born and raised, but my father is Ugandan. I first heard about CIDA when I visited my aunt in South Africa.
I finished my high school - or what we call form 6 - in 2006. That year my father had lost his job and my mother became really ill from stress related illnesses. They asked me to drop out of school because there was not enough money to send all of us to school, and when I could go, I was constantly being sent back because of school fee debts.
To help raise cash, I decided to do petty jobs like babysitting. I also studied late at night but prayed even more that I could save up enough to be able to register for the final exam. It was all I lived for at the time. Imagine, as a young person being stuck at home, and seeing everyone else leave to go about their business - leaving you in the house to cater to household chores. It broke my heart and I promised never to put myself - or anyone else - in that situation ever again.
Around this time I lost all sense of self confidence: I gave up on myself and left my hair in a mess, and just didn’t care about how I looked. After all, I was now a perfect description of a house girl. Aunty Winnie heard about how miserable I was and she invited me to come visit her for a month. She got a free ticket to come back to Uganda for the holidays but instead sent it to me to visit her.
She so desperately wanted to send me to school or help out in any way - but the financial demon always awoke when I needed to pay for registration. Irregardless of my good grades, there was no way I could be admitted to any place without paying the horrific large amounts of registration fees.
One day, on our way back home, we passed the CIDA CITY CAMPUS (CCC). My aunt asked me to walk in and make some inquiries. I did and luckily enough, the security guard took us in to the 5th floor and we got application forms. We knew this was honestly our last resort.
Two weeks later, a Mr. Gitonga - the campus registrar - called to inform me that I'd been admitted to the campus but I had to do the pre-university work. I did not care about that. All I knew is that I had been given a chance to something I would never have dreamt of. This was and will always be the happiest day of my life because it meant that I had a chance to make something of myself.
CIDA is an amazing place to be. All of us are from previously disadvantaged families and this makes it very easy for us to relate with each other. The spirit of UBUNTU here is so real and even though I haven’t been back home since December 2007 I often forget the pain because of the love and unity shown here. This place is more than I ever bargained for, awesome people, awesome country, and an awesome campus. I intend to graduate in majoring in Marketing and Human resources. My long term vision is to start CIDA East Africa and likewise help people who are academically deserving but their situations do not allow them access to further their education.
CIDA City Campus (CIDA), based in Johannesburg, is the first virtually free higher education institution in South Africa, offering holistic education to historically disadvantaged youth who would not otherwise be able to access higher education. With the cost of higher education in South Africa spiraling out of control, CIDA has emerged as the abiding hope for underprivileged students who have a desire to pursue a university level education. The university is driven to develop the infinite potential of every student regardless of his or her background. Oprah Winfrey and Sir Richard Branson are both major funding supporters of CIDA through the CIDA Foundation and the university has been visited and praised by many luminaries including entrepreneur Russell Simmons, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela.
Please follow the developments at CIDA on their website at: http://www.cida.co.za/
--the author is a student at CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg, South Africa writing for HUMNEWS.
The elimination of school fees is a perquisite for education systems to become inclusive, equitable and sustainable. However policies across Africa range widely - from zero fees in Lesotho to heavy fees in Swaziland.
“School fees are keeping children out of the classroom, and many of these are the most vulnerable children in our societies,” said Dr. Cream Wright, UNICEF Education Chief. “Fees consume nearly a quarter of a poor family’s income in Sub-Saharan Africa, paying not only for tuition, but also indirect fees such as PTA and community contributions, textbook fees, compulsory uniforms and other charges. The increasing numbers of orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS or trapped in domestic labour, makes it imperative to abolish fees.”
UNICEF says eliminating fees leads to a surge in enrollment: In Tanzania in 2001, primary school enrollment grew by 50%, from 4.4 million in 2002 to 6.6 million in 2003. In Kenya in 2003, enrollment grew from 6 million to 7.2 million in a matter of weeks.
Survey of School Fee Policies in Selected African Countries
The Government of Lesotho introduced Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2000. This policy has been implemented progressively by removing fees in phases from Grade 1 in 2000 to Grade 7 in 2006
Under the National Policy on Education, free basic education - including six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary school education - is compulsory.
The Government has implemented a policy of free primary education in which school fees have been abolished and replaced by a capitation grant, which increased to 2,500FRw (USD 4.50) in 2006. Shortfalls in financing at the school level nevertheless persist, with parents typically being asked to contribute to finance this gap. Non-fee barriers remain, such as school uniforms and learning materials, and these affect access to education. Rwanda also provides three years of free post-primary education, where students undertake a common-core syllabus, according to the Ministry of Education.
Universal Primary Education (UPE) is a priority of the Swaziland National Education Policy. Free primary education was to have been instituted last year. In Swaziland 16 percent of children are not receiving an education, according to UNICEF. School fees range from E2000 a year to E10,000 and often much more (the average daily income in Swaziland is about E6)