Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter
While the new school term got off to a smooth start at most educational institutions in the Corporate Area, some students were turned away at one early-childhood institution after administrators spent hours struggling to collect fees from delinquent parents.
Principal of Laura's Basic School in Duhaney Park, Kingston, Edith Nembhard-Chaplin said parents owe some $750,000 in outstanding fees, which is crippling the operations of the institution.
"We are having a challenge to collect the school fees from some parents. They come and they promise and even at the end of the term you still can't collect the money," Nembhard-Chaplin said.
"Because of the outstanding fees we are not able to meet our bills on time and this is putting us in problems because we face disconnection, we struggle to pay the teachers their salaries and sometimes after I pay everybody I am not left with any money for myself."
The principal said the school was now forced to seek the assistance of a lawyer to collect the monies owed by the parents.
"There are a few parents that we have to give and take with because they have always been paying their monies but the parents who are always owing, we can't continue like this," she said.
"There are parents who owe $20,000 to $30,000; some sign agreements and then don't stick to it. Some of them owe lunch money, they just don't want to pay. They don't put their priorities straight and it is really frustrating," she continued.
The school fee at the school is now $7,000 for the term while the cost of lunch is $200.
But while The Gleaner was at the school, some of the parents, after their children were refused entry to their classes, returned with the fees in hand.
Nembhard-Chaplin said this was a clear indication that they can do better.
She added that, with the financial crisis affecting the school, she would not rule out a staff cut from the 14 persons who are currently employed to care for the 187 students on roll.
There was some level of confusion at the school yesterday as some parents converged on the compound, showing their disgust with the situation.
"I am not working and so I was not able to come with the money this morning. Moreover the principal has an office and if she has a problem then she should take us in the office instead of talking to us in front of everybody," said one parent.
In a response to The Gleaner, the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) encouraged parents and the administrators at the institutions to try to reach an amicable decision where the school fees are concerned.
The ECC said while the commission does not encourage students to be turned away because of the non-payment of fees, basic schools are privately run and so it is only fair that they get the monies to carry out their daily operations.
The issue of parents sticking to their obligations of paying school fees has been a problem in the sector over the years as some schools continue to struggle to cope with a shortage of funds after some parents failed to pay the fees.