Removal of auxiliary fees, corporal punishment non-negotiable - PM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness says removal of auxiliary fees and prohibiting corporal punishment in schools are non-negotiable Government policies for which principals and teachers are to adhere.
Holness asserted that the Charter of Rights under the Constitution makes it an entitlement for children to have free access to primary education, inclusive of early-childhood education, "without any obligatory fees".
Additionally, he insisted that there should be no corporal punishment in early-childhood institutions, particularly infant schools, because it results in the entrenchment and legiti-misation of violence.
"I cannot wait until the cultural change happens. I must lead it by using institutions to set an example," he asserted.
The prime minister was speaking at the official handing-over ceremony of the newly completed Jamaica-China Goodwill Infant Schools in St Andrew West Central on Wednesday.
A second Jamaica-China Goodwill Infant School has been opened in Eastern St Thomas.
Holness expressed gratitude to the government and people of China for the two schools.
He said that the nation's interest is being advanced through its relationship with China.
Holness pointed to develop-ments under the Major Infrastructure Development Programme and the Jamaica North-South Highway as evidence of Jamaica's healthy partnership with the country.
"The sovereignty of Jamaica is foremost in my mind. We (Jamaica and China) have mutual respect and regard for each other, and the relationship has been beneficial," he added.
He noted that where loans are secured on behalf of Jamaica from China, they are done with the best interest rates.
"The Government of Jamaica, across administrations, has made a commitment that we will reduce our indebtedness. We are coming from a 141 per cent debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, and by the end of this fiscal year, just below 100 per cent ... the target is to be 60 per cent debt to our GDP and we're going to get there. If we borrow, we borrow smartly. We're living within our means," he said.
Early-childhood institutions improving
Education, Youth and Information Minister Senator Ruel Reid has declared that the "early-childhood education sector is much healthier than it was two and half years ago.
"The revitalisation of our Early Stimulation Programme, through partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders, is positively impacting our targeted pop-ulation. More of our stakeholders understand the importance of the first 1,000 days of a child's life," he said.
Reid noted that local developments in early childhood have been positively recognised in a report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as an example for the Caribbean region.
He said Jamaica and Barbados have been ranked "at the top of the 58 low- and middle-income countries in Latin America and the Caribbean with the greatest access to education programmes for infants.
"The IDB noted the fact that Jamaica implemented and conducted the first long-term experimental evaluation of an early-childhood development programme in a developing country," he said.
The schools, which were built under a cooperation agreement between Jamaica and China, can each accommodate 180 students.
Facilities include classrooms, playing rooms, auxiliary areas, outdoor corridors, playground, among other things.