Parents urged to aid schools with voluntary contributions
Under the Government's proposed tuition fee policy, which will see the removal of auxiliary fees, school administrations can still ask parents to voluntarily contribute to the development of the institutions.
Although emphasising that contributions sought should not be regarded as mandatory payments, Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid "strongly" encouraged parents who have the ability to make contributions, to do so in order to facilitate the "enhancement of your schools."
He was speaking at a press briefing on Friday following consultations on the policy with high school board chairpersons, principals and bursars at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
The new policy, which comes into effect at the start of the 2016/17 academic year in September, will result in the removal of auxiliary fees - ranging from $5,000 to $47,000 - which many schools currently require parents to pay for their children's' enrolment.
Reid said the reality was, there was a very low compliance rate under the auxiliary fee plan, as many parents could not afford to pay it, hence the need for the government to revise the tuition policy. "The compliance rate for the payment of auxiliary fees is 49 per cent, and this has been on the decline since 2011," he said.
Consequent on the impending discontinuation of fee payments, the ministry's subvention to schools will be increased from $11,500 to $19,000 per student. However, this will not be applied across the board, but instead will be done on a case by case basis, as not all schools face the same challenges and have the same needs.
Nothing that the government's plan to increase the tuition contribution per student to schools will help those that are underfunded, while establishing greater equity among all institutions, the minister said "We want to work with each school to look at their particular funding requirements and give guidance as to what is allowable in terms of reasonable contributions."
Reid said school administrators should have discussions with their boards and parent-teachers associations (PTA) to identify gaps within their institutions' budgets and development programmes for which additional funding assistance is needed.
He also said parents and PTAs should lobby the support of alumni associations and corporate Jamaica.
In addition to the increase in tuition subventions to schools, the ministry has also set aside funds in the capital budget to support building and maintenance projects.
Lynton Weir, president of the Association of Principals and Vice Principals, welcomed the announcement that voluntary contributions, particularly from parents, would be accommodated under the policy.
"We will look at the needs of our schools and still continue the partnership with our parents and past students as well. I am sure that school leaders will now be able to breathe a sigh of relief in terms of moving forward as it relates to development of our schools," Weir stated.