Thu | Jul 19, 2018

Letter of the Day: Put hold on removal of auxiliary fees

Published:Wednesday | April 27, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Ruel Reid, Jamaica's minister of education.


Education Minister Ruel Reid has announced that the payment of auxiliary fees will end in September, as the Government will increase the subvention for each student from $11,500 to $19,000. This has not gone down well with school administrations. They claim that this move will turn them into "beggars", as that amount is insufficient to take care of their programmes.

I think the teachers are in a much better position to know what is required to take care of their needs. Parents will welcome the Government's move, but what will this mean for education?

In 1942, the Beveridge Plan was proposed in England. It included a raft of proposals similar to what the Government is now proposing with education. Then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Kingsley Wood, requested a delay in the publication of the report as he felt it involved "... an impracticable financial commitment ...". The following year, Winston Churchill, in a broadcast on March, 21, warned the public not to impose "... great new expenditure on the State without any relation to the circumstances which might prevail at the time ...".

Not surprisingly, the party which supported the Beveridge Plan won the next elections and the Welfare State in Britain was born. What is frequently ignored, however, is that Britain was the largest recipient (26 per cent) of the Marshall Plan - a US$130 billion (in current dollar value) aid package from the US. We have not a benefactor but a butcher with its heel on our necks and a weapon called a structural adjustment programme in its hand.

We have absolutely no idea what awaits us around the next corner. The proposed arrangement for September is like an indulgent father, struggling on an old bicycle in bad weather, to get to work so as to enable his son to drive a Lexus to school to impress his friends.

The discrepancy in the earning levels of Jamaicans is enormous. A Jamaican who is living well is living well by world standards. At the other end of the spectrum, the conditions are awful.

There are middle- to upper-level civil servants, private-sector workers, lawyers, doctors and others who have absolutely no difficulty paying for their children. They should pay.

May I suggest, respectfully, that the Government put a hold on this plan while it conducts a means test into parents' financial circumstances to determine their eligibility for assistance.