No auxiliary fees removal this year
The parents of thousands of Jamaican high school students who may have been looking forward to being relieved of paying auxiliary fees come September will be left disappointed as it appears the Andrew Holness administration, which had promised to remove the fees, will not do so this fiscal year.
The intention of the Government was revealed in the Estimates of Expenditure for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which was tabled on Thursday in the House of Representatives.
The estimates showed a budgetary allocation of $2.8 billion for the secondary school tuition assistance programme under the education ministry. That figure is about $151 million more than the sum budgeted for the last financial year.
The Government plans to spend about $90.5 billion this fiscal year on the education ministry. This represents approximately $3 billion more than last year's allocation. However, the new allocation also covers the youth and information portfolios, which have been joined with education.
It's estimated that it would cost the Government between $1 billion and $4 billion to cover the cost of removing auxiliary fees.
A senior official of the administration told The Gleaner that the commitment is expected to be met, but a timeline was not yet decided on.
Based on the amount budgeted for tuition assistance, there is a $740 increase in the allocation for each child. It means that it will cost the Government $13,896 per child, moving up from $13,156 last year.
There are about 204, 700 students at the high school level.
Mandatory fees include auxiliary fees, which form part of the cost-sharing mechanism that is currently used to fund schools.
David Wilson, president of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Primary Schools, has argued that keeping the mandatory fees is a "feasible" way for schools to get additional funding that the Government cannot provide.