Jamaica Gleaner

‘PAR­ENTS, PAY UP!’

Aux­il­iary fees needed to help schools to get ready for Septem­ber

- Ryon Jones Staff Re­porter ryon.jones@glean­erjm.com

ED­U­CA­TION MIN­IS­TER Ron­ald Th­waites is de­fend­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tors of sec­ondary schools who have been ask­ing par­ents to pay up aux­il­iary and other fees well be­fore the start of the new school year.

With some par­ents com­plain­ing that the joy of their chil­dren do­ing well in the Grade Six Achieve­ment Test (GSAT) is be­ing re­placed by sad­ness at the charges they have been hit with, Th­waites ar­gued that schools have no choice.

Ac­cord­ing to Th­waites, the no­tion that ev­ery­one is en­ti­tled to free sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion is not cor­rect and is un­sus­tain­able.

“It is not free. The Gov­ern­ment pro­vides prob­a­bly 90 per cent of the cost, but there has to be con­tri­bu­tions by those who can make it,” Th­waites told The Sun­day Gleaner as he pointed to help through the PATH pro­gramme for those un­able to pay.

“I am aware that the con­tri­bu­tion is es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult this year, be­cause times are so hard. Schools have been in­structed to keep away no one, but ar­range­ments must be re­spon­si­bly made to make the pay­ments over a pe­riod of time,” added Th­waites.

How­ever, the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter was adamant that no child should be de­nied ac­cess to school sup­plies such as books pro­vided un­der the Gov­ern­ment’s text­book rental scheme.

“The schools tend to hold a hard end at t he be­gin­ning, be­cause many times, if they don’t, the par­ents make a prom­ise and you never see them again for the rest of the year. So that’s why they are stern, and they should be, but in the fi­nal anal­y­sis, they must ex­clude no one,” said Th­waites.

“And if there are in­stances where this is hap­pen­ing, ev­ery­one knows my phone num­ber; they are to call me and tell me, and we will deal with it.”

Th­waites was re­spond­ing to claims by an ed­u­ca­tor that par­ents of GSAT awardees were faced with an im­me­di­ate cost of be­tween $800 and $7,500 for the reg­is­tra­tion pack­age, with this money to be paid days af­ter the school place­ment was an­nounced.

OTHER EX­PENSES

Par­ents were then hit with other ex­penses, in­clud­ing med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion, sum­mer school, uni­form/ma­te­rial, book lists, PTA and aux­il­iary fee vouch­ers, all to be paid be­fore the end of July.

“While par­ents could ap­pre­ci­ate the im­me­di­acy with which a med­i­cal re­port might be re­quired, sev­eral ex­pressed con­cern that some school ad­min­is­tra­tors de­manded the pay­ment of the con­tentious aux­il­iary fees long be­fore the start of the new aca­demic year.

“Just un­der 40 per cent of the sur­veyed schools or­dered par­ents to fork out the year’s fees in July, with dead­lines as early as the week com­menc­ing July 13, 2015,” said ed­u­ca­tor and par­ent Verona An­toine-Smith

“In some schools, ac­cess­ing text­books for rental was con­tin­gent on the pay­ment of aux­il­iary fees. Fifty-four per cent of the schools sur­veyed ad­mit­ted that these new stu­dents had to pay aux­il­iary fees as a pre­con­di­tion to col­lect­ing their rental books,” added An­toine-Smith as she noted that the fees ranged from $6,000 to $41,000 (in non-board­ing in­sti­tu­tions).

SCHOOLS NEED MONEY

But pres­i­dent of the Ja­maica As­so­ci­a­tion of Prin­ci­pals of Sec­ondary Schools, Heather Mur­ray, says while she un­der­stands that it is dif­fi­cult for some par­ents, schools need the money to op­er­ate ef­fec­tively as the Gov­ern­ment’s con­tri­bu­tion is min­i­mal.

“They will prob­a­bly give you a main­te­nance fee of maybe $20,000 for the year. When you have a school of my size, what can $20,000 do for main­te­nance? It can’t even pay the work­men,” said Mur­ray, who is the prin­ci­pal at Hamp­ton High School.

“Many of the schools are do­ing far ex­tra with so lit­tle. What the min­istry needs to do is keep a check and bal­ance and say $7,000 is rea­son­able (for reg­is­tra­tion pack­ages), but what is it you are do­ing with this money? And let the par­ents be aware that it is not free. You do not have to pay tu­ition, but there are many other hid­den cost,” added Mur­ray.

She ar­gued that par­ents are be­ing asked to pay the var­i­ous fees early as school ad­min­is­tra­tors have much to do to get ready for the Septem­ber 7 start of the new aca­demic year.

“There are a num­ber of prepara­tory things we do for school that have to be done in the sum­mer. These in­clude paint­ing out the graf­fiti that the stu­dents put on the walls, we have fenc­ing pri­or­i­ties, and if you have In­ter­net fa­cil­i­ties to put in,” said Mur­ray.

“We need to do these things, and a num­ber of schools end the year with noth­ing at all in their ac­counts. They de­pend heav­ily on the fees that are paid to make these prepa­ra­tions to start school.”

See full con­tri­bu­tion from Verona An­toine-Smith on page A10.

 ?? FILE ?? Grade-six stu­dents at Rousseau Pri­mary School in the Cor­po­rate Area take in new desks and chairs to their class­room. Schools need aux­il­iary fees to pro­vide these items in time for the start of the new school year.
FILE Grade-six stu­dents at Rousseau Pri­mary School in the Cor­po­rate Area take in new desks and chairs to their class­room. Schools need aux­il­iary fees to pro­vide these items in time for the start of the new school year.
 ??  ?? TH­WAITES
TH­WAITES
 ??  ?? MUR­RAY
MUR­RAY

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