Ministry funding can't sustain schools
THE EDITOR, Sir:
While I will never condone any action that stymies students, the recent reports regarding the charging of fees to students to sit internal exams was cause for concern. However, as a principal/head teacher, I can empathise with my fellow administrators.
The attendant costs to operate a school are exorbitant. The Regular and Janitorial Grants sent every term by the Ministry of Education (MOE), albeit late, cannot sustain a school, as the funds are depleted after two weeks. The minister has indicated a willingness to increase the sums. Hurray! However, even if the present sums are quadrupled, it would not be sufficient.
The school has become the family, as daily we feed, bathe, clothe and nurture 'our children'. We are mandated to provide wholesome experiences, but guess what? There are costs attached, and somebody must pay!
We give our children opportunities to participate in external competitions and activities. We expose them to various technological devices/ aids. We provide conducive physical environments, so that they are given the best chances to succeed. We employ additional staff members to assist in the smooth running of our institutions. We have to maintain our ageing physical plants with their outdated plumbing and electrical systems. Let us not forget the field excursions, stationery items, furniture, and countless other expenses.
As administrators, we are spending far too much quality instruction time planning and executing fundraising activities to offset spiralling expenses. I have become a professional beggar of no mean order, feared by friends, family members, and corporate entities, as I am constantly writing, calling, visiting and pleading for contributions/ donations, expertly coined public-private partnerships.
As a result, I am shortly to take an anti-fundraising stance, so that more time can be spent undertaking my core responsibilities, that of instructional leader. I submit humbly that our best partnership must be forged with parents.
The time is now ripe for the Jamaican public to be properly educated, and they must be made to understand and appreciate that the stipend given by the MOE is inadequate, and so creative means must be identified to fill the gaps.
Parents need to take responsibility if they are desirous for their children to succeed by receiving a first-class education. They MUST contribute in tangible ways. Is it any wonder that the students at the private/prep schools are outperforming those in our public schools?
As school administrators, we must make every effort to dispel the notion fed to us and the general populace by the politicians that education is free. Without hesitation, education CANNOT, IS NOT, and WILL NEVER BE free. We have to pay!
ARETHA P. WILLIE
Passionate Educator/ Principal