Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Devon Dick | Towards a better education system

Published:Thursday | August 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Ruel Reid, minister of education, has withdrawn his comments associating school administrators with corruption and extortion because of issues related to the calculation and collection of the contribution from parents towards their children's education. Withdrawing comments is not the same as expressing regret and remorse. It is not the same as an unreserved, full and effective apology. An apology is an expression of sorrow and an acknowledgement of fault, failure or failing. The minister did not express any sorrow or accept any failing.

It could be that withdrawing the comments is a sign that the truth was not said in love as is required by the Bible. However, it does not negate that truth was spoken. In other words, somebody can be a hypocrite and still speak the truth. Somebody can tell you that it is bad for your health to smoke cigarettes and even chide you for doing it, and that same person is a smoker. The person is a hypocrite, but the warning is truthful.

One, therefore, can reasonably state that the minister of education is holding to the truthfulness of the statement while withdrawing the comment. And he, being a former principal, would be aware of some of the corruption in the high-school system. There are schools who offer large sums of financial reward in cash and kind to get students to play sports for the school without a similar commitment to academic development. Perhaps the minister is aware of school administrators using the school mobile telephone for extensive personal calls. That is corruption. One definition of corruption is using one's public office for personal gain. Perhaps the minister is aware of school administrators getting kickbacks from infrastructural work being done on the school property. Perhaps the minister is aware of school administrators extorting money from students, telling them to make a contribution to the school if they want to enter grade 12. The minister has all the right to go after persons engaging in corruption and extortion.

 

Major obstacles

 

Corruption and extortion are major obstacles in getting Jamaicans to flourish. We should support the minister in going after corruption and extortionists wherever they are to be found. It is really sad if the contribution towards education is mired in such dishonest and unfair practices.

In any case, it is not rocket science to fix the voluntary contribution towards education and hence avoid corruption and extortion. Under the auxiliary fees system the fees were voluntary, and one school of which I am aware had 40 per cent non-compliance and persons were not prevented from attending school.

The minister has quite nobly stated that no child should be left behind. Therefore, to avoid the school administrators from being in a catch-22 situation, there are a couple of steps that could be undertaken. The government, through the ministry and its islandwide network, is aware of the cost of providing quality education to our students and should be able to arrive at a reasonable figure for the contribution. Those who are unable to make the contribution should apply to the ministry of education through its regional offices for a waiver. This waiver would be granted and a voucher generated, and the school administrators would be able to redeem it from the Ministry of Education within the first three weeks of the reopening of school. In other words, the government will pay for those parents who cannot afford the contribution. The school will therefore not have a shortfall. Principals would not have the stress of dealing with shortfalls from non-paying parents, but can plan properly for the effective delivery of quality education to all students.

Follow these suggestions and we will not have this problem next year, and the quality of the education system will improve.

- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.