Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Principals cautious about planned auxiliary abolition

Published:Tuesday | August 23, 2016 | 8:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Members of the Rusea's High School's choir perform during Jamaica Day celebrations at the school, last Friday.

Some high school principals in western Jamaica are adopting a cautious wait-and-see approach to determine how they will respond to the Education Ministry's thrust to abolish auxiliary fees when the new school year begins in September.

Donna-Marie Redway, principal of the Montego Bay High School for Girls, and Linvern Wright, principal of the Rusea's High School in Lucea, Hanover, both told Western Focus that their response to the planned abolition would depend on how parents and students of their respective institutions reacted to the move, which the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government has implemented as one of its campaign promises prior to its election on February 25.

"We sent out notifications based on what the school board has approved, so it is a wait-and-see situation in terms of how the parents are going to respond. But if we do not get the funding, it means speaking to the ministry to provide us with funding," said Redway. "I am expecting the parents to respond because I appealed to them to say we still need your support."

Wright said: "What we will really have to handle is how we adjust our budget if it is that we have significant shortfalls in what we would have expected from parents. The government has sent us a sum that they will be sending over the year, and there is a sum we would have anticipated from parents. What we are looking at now is whether or not we get 40, 50, or 60 per cent of it."

Auxiliary fees are used by schools to fund programmes related to sports, social development, and various academic activities. However, prior to the ministry's announcement of its plan to discontinue auxiliary fees as of September, there had been complaints from some parents that the fees were too high.

The ministry had also announced that it would cost between $1 and $4 billion to fund the abolition of auxiliary fees and that the government would increase subvention money to be given to schools from $11,500 to $19,000 per student.

 

MIXED REACTIONS

 

There have been mixed reactions to the proposed abolition of auxiliary fees from school principals. While some have supported the move, citing lack of compliance from parents, other administrators have vehemently opposed the planned abolition, claiming that the subvention increase would not be enough to fund their programmes and that they would be reduced to begging for support from parents and other stakeholders.

For Redway, one point of concern is an announcement made by Education Minister Ruel Reid, in relation to the subvention allocation, that not all schools would receive the exact $19,000 sum as some would require less than that to cover operational costs.

"The subvention is going to depend on several things. Each school is not going to get $19,000 per child; some schools might get $19,000, some might not get so much," Redway stated. "If the child is on the PATH programme, you're going to get x amount, but if the child is not, you will get a minus allocation for PATH."

Wright said that any drop in the compliance rate of support from parents would adversely affect extra-curricular programmes in traditional high schools.

"If the compliance rate drops, especially in the traditional high schools, you will have significant repercussions for things like sports especially, because that is where we fund our sports from. The ministry says we cannot fund sports from the ministry's money, but we still have to compete in the DaCosta cup, Boys and Girls' Champs, netball, etc," Wright said.