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Reid: Resources will be found to fund lunch programme

Published:Wednesday | May 4, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

Education Minister Ruel Reid has signalled that principals at the high-school level need not worry about the administration's plans to expand the school-feeding programme at the secondary level from three to five days, noting that the resources would be found to fund it.

While welcoming the move, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Dr Peter Phillips cautioned the Government against "setting up principals" who might be challenged to use their limited resources to accommodate the expanded lunch programme.

According to Phillips, the principals and school administrators have said that the amounts they now receive are inadequate to meet other needs that do not include the lunch programme.

"I fear we may be setting up the principals and the school administrations to deliver, setting them up to have parents expect of them what they cannot deliver," Phillips said during yesterday's meeting of Parliament's Standing Finance Committee.

However, Reid argued that the administration had never said that schools could not ask for contributions from parents, noting that the Government had opposed mandatory fees.

The education minister said parent-teacher associations and other stakeholders had always supported schools and their lunch programmes, as well as other cost-related activities.

Opposition Spokesman on Education Ronald Thwaites wanted to know if the additional grants being allocated to schools by the ministry to replace the auxiliary fees would be used to help fund the expanded lunch programme.

Responding, Reid said: "There is an increased amount in the tuition allocation over last year in this current budget, so they will accommodate the additional meals for the two days."

Asked if school administrators are aware of these plans, Reid said meetings would be held tomorrow with principals and chairmen of high schools to discuss the issue.

During yesterday's deliberations on the Estimates of Expenditure by the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament, the Jamaica Labour Party's promised funding of an early childhood stimulation programme was also discussed.

Reid told members of the committee that the ministry had allocated $30 million from a scaled-down ASTEP (Alternative Secondary Transition Education Programme) to fund the early childhood stimulation exercise.

Reid said a pilot programme would be rolled out this year. The full allocation to the programme for the fiscal year could not be ascertained yesterday as Reid indicated that the information would have to come from the Ministry of Health, which has overall responsibility for the programme.