UNICEF Youth Drought summit says school fees should be deferred

At the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit one of the key recommendations was to set up HECS-style payments for high school students.
At the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit one of the key recommendations was to set up HECS-style payments for high school students.

UNICEF Australia are pushing for the government to work with independent schools to ensure families going through financial hardship due to drought can defer school fees.

The recommendation, for a HECS-style deferred payment system for high school students, was one of five made to federal government ministers by a delegation from the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit, held in October.

UNICEF's Amy Lamoin said the Youth Drought Summit had concluded that education was paramount during drought.

"This can be one of the only stable things in children's lives when everything is disrupted," Ms Lamoin said.

She said while they recognised that some schools were working extraordinarily hard to support families who are experiencing drought, it was not enough for this decision to be left in the hands of individual principals.

A HECS-style deferred payment system for high school students, was one of five made to federal government ministers by a delegation from the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit.

A HECS-style deferred payment system for high school students, was one of five made to federal government ministers by a delegation from the UNICEF Youth Drought Summit.

"It's not good enough to leave that decision in the hands of individual principals," Ms Lamoin said.

"It's our view that the government should be working with the private education system.

"When there's prolonged drought and families are looking at significant financial stress, there should be either a deferred style payment or a debt forgiveness.

"It doesn't need to be a blanket approach, it can still be based on assessments of families but it should be freely available"

Ms Lamoin said it was a misconception that students who attended boarding-school came from wealthy families.

"Kids are often in boarding school because the next available public school is hundreds of kilometres away," Ms Lamoin said.

She said some attendees at the summit had had the experience of being told by their school that they could not stay if they couldn't pay the fees.

"We have spoken to some students who haven't been able to stay at the boarding school they attended and they are essentially having to try and go to the nearest public school," she said.

"Young people are travelling for up to two hours on the way and way back from school, trying to do as much homework on the bus that they can because that's the only free time they have.

"It's a completely unworkable arrangement."

This story UNICEF push for deferred school fees during drought first appeared on The Land.