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Parents must pay auxiliary fees - education minister

Published:Wednesday | June 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

HIGH-SCHOOL administrators have received the endorsement of Education Minister Ronald Thwaites who yesterday declared in Parliament that the payment of auxiliary fees by parents is not optional.

The position articulated by the minister represents a reversal of the policy of the previous Government which said the fees were optional and non-obligatory.

In making his contribution to the 2012-2013 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, Thwaites said the $11,500 subsidy provided by the Government for direct tuition for each child at the secondary level was insufficient to meet the reasonable cost of quality high-school education.

"Auxiliary fees, therefore, represent a necessary part of a school's ability to finance their operations. These fees, which are worked out in conjunction with representatives of parents and principals, are not optional extras which you pay if you feel like," the minister said.

Thwaites described as "careless" statements made on the matter in recent years. He said those statements have resulted in a dramatic reduction in compliance.

"Many schools are collecting less than 30 per cent of already small fees," Thwaites said.

He added: "Schools have suffered, especially the weaker ones, and when schools suffer, students are the casualties."

Extortion label

In 2008, then Prime Minister Bruce Golding described as extortion the practice of some schools turning away students who do not pay the auxiliary fees.

"We are not going to allow schools to find some other ways of extorting," Golding had said.

Yesterday, Thwaites insisted that families who can't pay the auxiliary fees one time must be given the opportunity to pay it over the school year.

"Supporting your child in school must come before the Rizzla and the rum; before the hair extensions and the bashment clothes; before the numbers game and the racehorse bets," the minister said.

In the meantime, Thwaites noted that nearly half the population is on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). He acknowledged that parents cannot afford to pay for auxiliary fees for children on PATH and said the state should seek to give schools more money to support their education.

"The Ministry of Education is pleading with the ministries of finance and social security to contribute $2,000 a year for each PATH student beneficiary. It is a matter of justice and equity, not charity," Thwaites said.