Letter of the day: Government not giving schools enough support
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Manchester South MP Michael Peart has voiced the concern of most ordinary Jamaicans over the cost of education in Jamaica. There seems to be a host of 'fees' and 'costs' associated with education that must be borne by parents.
School administrators have been facing a lot of criticism as to their motives for introducing these fees. The answer is simple: They are not getting enough funds from Government to run the institutions. We should realise by this that Government is not prepared to sacrifice its 'star status' with the IMF to deal with welfare issues of Jamaicans.
In 2009-10, the allocation was $74.4 billion. In 2010-11, it moved down to $72.4 billion. By 2012-2013, it was at $70.5 billion. This year, the minister admitted that the allocation was "less" than what he had wished. To function in these conditions calls for extreme attempts at creativity on the part of teachers, but when one is denied a salary adjustment for five years, one's creative juices tend to dry up.
We hear the cry "Things are hard" frequently, but rarely stop to think about it. In 2013, our unemployment rate was 15 per cent, while it was 12 per cent in Barbados and seven per cent in Haiti. Many of those who are employed have seen their pay package shrink over the past few years from inflation and devaluation. The increased demand on their meagre resources for educational material is troubling and could be part of the reason why Minister Paulwell is hearing that investors cannot find the skills they need in Jamaica.
still a racket
I meet scores of unemployed youngsters who were unable to sit their final exams because they claim their parents did not have the money to pay the fees. Others eventually drop out of school because they could not afford the books.
The minister spoke out about that school book racket but lapsed into silence. I remember a time when I was able to hand my book to my younger siblings when I moved into another class. What was wrong with that?
Allow me to make two suggestions that could help parents deal with these school challenges:
1. Two years before CXC exams, parents start to make a small, predetermined weekly contribution to exam fees.
2. Teachers determine what books will be used each term. So parents would buy only books to be used in the September term and have from September to December to buy books that will be used in the January term, and so on.