Schools prepare for tough year
Nadisha Hunter, Gleaner Writer
The economic tsunami of 2009 did not spare the education system and many administrators are hunkering down for more battering this year.
Michael Stewart, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), is blaming much of the problem on the no-tuition-fee programme introduced by the government in 2007, even as he explained the measures being implemented by the schools.
"In some schools, we have had to cut back on the co-curricular activities because of the additional cost which will be brought to bear on these programmes for this year," Stewart said.
He told The Sunday Gleaner that problems of the schools will be compounded by the price increases they will face when classes resume tomorrow.
He said many of the students depended solely on Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) for financing but that is not enough to meet the needs.
"It is going to impact on the nutritional level of our students, performance is going to go down if we are going to have children attending school irregularly and without proper nutrition," Stewart claimed.
He added, "The increase in bus and taxi fares is going to impact severely on travelling for the students going to schools as some parents just don't have the income to finance it."
Opposition Spokesman on Education Basil Waite is also concerned about the impact of the recent price increases on children.
"Unless the Government look at ways to increase the school-feeding and PATH programmes it will affect the education system, because cost of living gone up and you will have more persons registering," Waite said.
He argued that with the various challenges confronting the sector, the Government will have to revisit the no-tuition-fee policy to see if it is sustainable at this time.
In the meantime, Grace McLean, chief education officer at the Ministry of Education, admitted that finance will be a formidable challenge for schools this year.
However, she argued that the ministry continues to review measures to ensure increased efficiency.
In keeping with the ministry's plan to address the overcrowding in schools, McLean said a National Education Trust fund (NET) will be launched early this year.
NET, which will be responsible to provide the financial support for the building of new schools, will also provide other funding for the sector.
The trust fund will work closely with the diaspora, both in terms of the corporate entities and individuals in the diaspora, to garner money.
According to the education ministry, NET would be a kind of one-stop shop where you could give your resources to the trust which would, in turn, assist in the development of infrastructure.