Back to school: The nursery school, soon really free?

Some measures were to be taken in kindergarten as of this year but were finally postponed by one year. A pilot project for free canteens will nonetheless see the light of day this year.

L has a free education is enshrined in the Belgian Constitution. But in reality, the related costs are very real: daycare, school trips, supplies, canteen, books, etc.

"Free schooling is still a myth in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, while it is much more advanced in Flanders, " says Delphine Chabbert, political secretary of the League of Families.

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The kindergarten is certainly the least expensive. But one parent in five still spends more than 50 € just for the back, recalls the association. And a school year costs on average 280 € per year and per child in the nursery.

The new Pact for Excellence in Education envisaged the gradual introduction of free maternal education by 2018, to achieve total free education in 2020. But the first measures are not ready and will come into force only in 2019 (for the 1st and 2nd kindergarten) and 2020 (for the 3rd kindergarten), after the installation of the new government, which will have to foresee the financing.

Free education is a priority for 8 out of 10 parents, according to a Family League survey. A glimmer of hope is temporarily extinguished for them.

Pilot project in canteens

However, a pilot project for free canteens in some schools of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation was set up for this autumn.

Some 5,000 pupils in 440 nursery schools will be able to eat a hot and balanced meal for free in the canteen this year. They will be served at noon, four days a week.

The experiment, which will be conducted for two years, represents a cost of € 2 million for 650,000 meals served. If it works, it will be extended to all schools that host disadvantaged children. "My wish is that it can be generalized to all children who are in the differentiated framework, it represents 20 million euros," said Isabelle Simonis, Minister of Youth in Wallonia-Brussels Federation.

Some Walloon and Brussels municipalities have also already adopted various measures: school supplies offered, free day-care centers, lunchtime soups or even a snack to reduce parents' bills.

First "school" fees

As part of the Pact, various citizen round tables were held to formulate proposals that could lower the costs for parents. For citizens, the fees to be deleted in priority are: daycare, lunch and school materials.

The Pact specifies that the cost-cutting plan will primarily be allocated to so-called "school fees" and then "hospitality" costs. A specific grant will be allocated to schools exclusively for the purchase of school supplies.

The budget allocated to the free kindergarten project is € 2.5 million per year. It will then rise to 10 million per year when will be added the third kindergarten, the primary and finally the secondary. In the meantime, the parents just have to wait ...

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