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Government’s contribution can't prepare students for tomorrow – Davis Whyte

Published:Monday | August 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMMark Titus
Helene Davis Whyte

Western Bureau:

Helene Davis Whyte, the president of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), says the Government's contribution towards school fees is a mere "drop in the bucket and is insufficient to prepare our students for tomorrow's world".

Davis Whyte, who was the keynote speaker on yesterday's first day of the three-day Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) 52nd annual conference in Montego Bay, was making reference to the Government's $19,000-per-child contribution to the schools.

"When one thinks of $19,000 per child and you look at what prep school fees [are], and think of secondary school where you talking about labs and all these other things, $19,000 is a drop in the bucket," said Davis Whyte. "... And I have said to parents, very often, we get what we pay for, that's really what it amounts to.

"So if as parents we determine that our children are important to us, and we need them to get education at a particular standard, we have to first determine what is that cost," said Davis Whyte.

Davis Whyte said that she was curious about how the Government made the decision as to the appropriateness of a maximum of $19,000-per-child contribution when one considered the overall cost of maintaining a school plant.

"I am curious as to how the ministry draws a figure of $19,100 out of a hat, because it can only be drawn out of a hat. As far as I am concerned, when one looks at the real cost of maintaining a school plant, the cost of electricity, water ... and when you think of all the things that have to be done [with] $19,000 - not for the term, but for the year, [that is] almost $7,000 per term," said Davis Whye.

Position on auxiliary fees 'almost hypocritical'

Mandatory fees include auxiliary fees and form part of the cost-sharing mechanism that is currently used to fund schools, but according to Helene Davis Whyte, who was a lead negotiator for JCTU in public-sector wage negotiations with the Government, for more than a decade, the Government's position is "almost hypocritical" as its counters its own policy under the 2030 vision for education.


"Since we have this problem in terms of our economy, what this period calls for are administrators and professionals to think out of the box," noted Davis Whyte. "It requires educators and professionals that are comfortable in the knowledge that their efforts are appreciated and who are properly rewarded."

"Navigating this educational landscape will require educators and professionals accepting that they will have to forge partnerships with other stakeholders in order to realise the vision," the JCTU boss added. "... And so I would say to our policymakers, rather than lambasting teachers, the policymakers should be part of putting together that framework that we can get the kind of partnerships that are necessary to be able to deliver on that vision."

The JTA conference is being held under the theme 'Navigating the Education Landscape: Transforming, Engaging, Collaborating, Facilitating and Leading' at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay.