Letters to the Editor

Funding education must be priority #1

Thursday, August 31, 2017

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Dear Editor,

The funding of education is a big issue in this country. On one hand the hapless Minister of Education Senator Ruel Reid is positing that his ministry has shown commitment to education by increasing funding from $11,500 to over $17,000. Obviously this is a step in the right direction. However, some administrators claim that this sum is quite paltry depending on the programmes offered by the school.

Though Jamaica may be experiencing near-fiscal crisis, this Administration can find appropriate funding for education, if political will is exercised. The Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund has a surplus of cash that could be used to finance education at all levels. But currently most of its funding is invested in sports, with education receiving maybe 25 per cent.

No one is undermining the importance of sports, but we need to get our priorities right as a country, and education is definitely more important than sports. It is disturbing to note that only a few voices in the media have been clamouring for changes to be made to how CHASE disburses funds. Therefore, it would be appropriate for the guidelines governing the CHASE Fund to be altered so that the country can get its priorities in order.

At present, some 40 per cent of those funds go to sports, with education getting 25 per cent, health getting 20 per cent and arts and culture getting 15 per cent. With the proposed funding structure education should get 50 per cent, health must be allocated 35 per cent and five per cent should go to sports, scientific research and arts and culture. In addition, after increasing allocation to education, the distribution of the funding is another matter. The minister with responsibility for education will have to decide how much money will be invested in the National Education Trust that is responsible for financing the infrastructure of schools, and what percentage of the funding will be used to finance secondary and tertiary education.

Further, if our politicians are serious about sports and culture, then they will scrap the Constituency Development Fund and invest the funds in these sectors. We cannot continue to have misplaced priorities anymore; now is the time to get our act together.

Lipton Matthews

lo_matthews@yahoo.com

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