Gov't urges parents to report schools which turn away pupils for unpaid fees
Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter
Several parents are now expressing uncertainty over whether their children will be allowed in classes at the opening of schools on Monday morning.
Their concerns stem from many secondary schools' refusal to issue textbooks for rental or admit students without auxiliary fees being paid.
The parent of a pupil entering second form at a prominent Kingston high school showed The Gleaner a booklist, which stated clearly that no rental books would be distributed unless all the stated fees were paid by August 15.
"I was only given the booklist on Thursday - one working day before school reopens - after I managed to get $15,000 from a local-government representative to pay part of the $22,000 auxiliary fee at that school," said the parent, who did not want her name publicised.
ALL SHOULD GET TEXTBOOKS
However, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is adamant that no child should be denied access to school resources or entry because of non-payment of these fees.
"Every child must go to school and receive the appropriate textbooks because the Government has paid these fees," Thwaites said.
However, another parent said she will be holding the minister to his word that no child will be turned back. She said she is yet to find the auxiliary fee and she was told no child will be allowed in class unless attempts are made to find the fees. The parent said she will be accompanying the child to school on Monday.
The education minister is encouraging parents to contact the regional offices of the ministry and report schools that refuse to grant students textbooks or permission to enter.
Even as he insisted that no student should be turned away, Thwaites has made it clear that parents must make some contribution towards their children's education.
"The schools are being strict because they are fearful parents will not pay, so parents should go in and work out appropriate payment plans," Thwaites said.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness has called on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to clarify the Government's policy on school fees.
In a statement yesterday, Holness said despite the ministry's directive that schools should refrain from increasing auxiliary fees, many schools have gone ahead and bumped up these fees.
Checks by The Gleaner revealed that at least three prominent schools in Kingston and St Andrew have increased their fees by as much as $7,000.
Holness is arguing that with the Government's insistence on parents paying these supplementary fees, the country has gone back to its cost-sharing days.
Under cost sharing, parents were mandated to pay half of the fees, while the Government covered the remainder. This system was abolished when the Jamaica Labour Party was voted into office in 2007.
"By making auxiliary contributions compulsory payments, the Government has clearly secretly returned to the failed system of cost sharing," the release quoted Holness as saying.