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Transfer probe - Education ministry to decide if schools can continue charging request fees

Published:Sunday | June 26, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Education Minister Ruel Reid

The Ruel Reid-led Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has launched an investigation into revelations that some secondary schools are collecting fees from parents seeking transfers for their children who sat the Grade Six Achievement Test this year.

The Gleaner has learnt that some schools have been collecting transfer-request fees of up to $5,000 from parents.

When this was brought to the attention of Dorrett Campbell, deputy chief education officer in charge of school operations, she indicated that a decision on whether the ministry would give its OK to transfer-request fees would be arrived at once the investigation into the circumstances around the charges currently being levied on parents have been completed.

"The matter of schools purportedly charging a fee to consider an application for transfer has just been brought to our attention, and we have started to investigate to ascertain whether it is being treated as a user fee for the application form and processing of the application or the regular registration fee," she said in an email response to The Gleaner.

"We will arrive at a decision when the matter is fully investigated."

While the ministry has to approve transfers, it currently does not have a transfer policy in place, and as such, secondary schools have been left to institute their own system of dealing with transfers, resulting in varying fees across schools.

When The Gleaner contacted various schools, the newspaper was informed that transfer-request fees ranged between $1,000 and $6,000.

The ministry, by its own admission, has indicated that high school administrations have been given latitude to treat with transfer requests as they please.

"Clearly, there are a few schools that are facilitating transfers and are charging an administrative fee for the process. Due to the absence of a transfer policy, we cannot dictate to schools what they should do to accommodate the movement of students. These fees are being looked at by the ministry and will be reviewed in short order," the ministry said.

While it is yet to issue guidelines or an official policy on transfer fees, the ministry has issued official guidelines on registration fees.

"In keeping with our mandate of ensuring that the cost to parents remains minimal, we ask that our schools' administrators keep the cost of the registration packages between $1,000 and $5,000," the ministry said in a bulletin sent to high school principals late last week.

The bulletin also stipulated that all charges for registration packages be approved by the ministry and that the non-payment of fees should not affect students' acceptance of school placement or registration to school.