The right direction

Letters to the Editor

The right direction

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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Dear Editor,

This issue with school fees, contributions, and the long yard started when our politicians started telling the electorate that education is free.

The ginnals who uttered these words were not thinking about the interest of the parents, but had vote count for their party on their minds. Indeed, the win-at-all-cost mentality has been costing this country in terms of lives lost, and financially too.

The fact is no child should be turned away from school, and I support this as an axiom. Then comes the devil in the detail and the communication.

Ever since the the idea of parent contribution came about the Government and the Ministry of Education has been playing a hide-and-seek game with parents and schools about this 'contribution'. Now we have parents believing that school administrations are culprits, when it is the Ministry of Education who has been sending communiques to schools about how the fees should be charged. Indeed, this rift with schools and parents about fees has increased the distrust between both parties. In truth, there are parents who can pay who just do not.

Moreover, the Government's unwillingness to bring into law aspects governing the formation and operation of parent-teacher associations (PTAs) leave many parents without a voice or a channel of communication and discussion with school administrators. The underfunded National Parent Support Commission has been shown to be an almost useless tool and the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) is a political football, especially with the fact that the NPTAJ is actually officed in the Ministry of Education. Yes, the so-called independent association representing PTAs islandwide is located in the ministry and I think one staff member is paid by it.

I have been a sponsor of the NPTAJ for a number of years, starting with a Parent of the Year Award in 2015. I have also supported the Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors in Education Awards since 2016 and I have contributed to the Jamaicca Association of Education Officers to some extent, too, and indeed the Jamaica Teachers' Association. So my contribution to education in Jamaica is no small measure.

So when I speak I do not speak with water in my mouth, or with any political affiliation. Both political parties gave a quiet fight during their tenures. I challenge the prime minister if he would do the same things I am doing in his personal capacity. I happen to operate a business that involves the education sector and I can tell you that I give more per dollar earned than any major corporation in this country. I gave until it almost broke me. Why? Because senior actors in the Government and business tried to dismantle my operations because of my independence, because I am not a person who went begging them for anything.

I hope that the parents and alumni will rallying around their schools as they do the losing West Indies because we need a win on the education front so we can have better leaders than we have now.

Mark Trought

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