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Private schools bemoan funding woes

Published:Monday | June 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

THE PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Independent Schools Association (JISA), the Reverend Sylvester O'Gilvie, wants the assistance of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) to strengthen its position in Jamaica's commercial base.

O'Gilvie told The Gleaner that one of the greatest obstacles is the reluctance of banks to finance their operations.

"The schools are experiencing grave difficulties accessing loans from financial institutions to advance their enterprises," he told The Gleaner.

"The owners of most of the schools are either proprietors; owners and are deemed to be engaged in entrepreneurial ventures and placed in the category of private businesses."

"We are at a disadvantage as we cannot access finances similar to other companies like members of the PSOJ," he said.

Entrepreneurial energy

With many of the institutions from the approximately 4,000 pre-school to the high and vocational levels that are listed in its directory, languishing in dire financial straits, JISA has set its sight on the influential PSOJ for support.

Veronica Carnegie, a former president of the association, told The Gleaner that the organisation is a planning to inject renewed entrepreneurial energy into the educational system by turning to the PSOJ.

"There are certain privileges that private-sector businesses obtain and since they regard independent schools as independent businesses and entrepreneurs, the principals and directors are required to sign to keep those schools alive," Carnegie noted.

She said independent schools are forced to find creative ways of staying afloat.

"These institutions do not benefit from government grants or subventions, they get nothing from the Government, so being members of the PSOJ would assist them in accessing the benefits accrued by members of the private sector," Carnegie said.

The JISA has established a directory of all the schools in operation in the island which Carnegie said is "to guide the business community, particularly at the start of each academic year".

Carnegie noted that independent schools help to fill a much-needed gap in the system.

"The reality is that the 130 government schools just can't cater to the needs of the young people who are out there and are in need of academic and other assistance," she said.