BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
MINISTER of Education Reverend Ronald Thwaites has reiterated that auxiliary fees demanded by high schools at the beginning of the school year must be paid.
However, he has also said that no student should be turned away if they are unable to pay.
Speaking at a press conference last month, the minister said: "Auxiliary fees for high schools should not be optional but should represent parents' contribution in helping to finance their children's education."
He also said school administrators should devise reasonable and non-threatening payment plans that will encourage parents to meet their school fees payment obligations and that "no student must be excluded from school because of their inability to pay".
Government allocates a tuition grant of $11,500 per student to public secondary schools. But over the years, schools have complained that money is not enough to cover the expenses involved in running their institutions.
Auxiliary fees vary for school in their amounts and the expenses they cover. The fees may include PE gear, orientation material, badges, epaulettes, stationery, development of laboratories, insurance, sports programmes, and other activities.
Asked for further clarification, Thwaites urged school administrators and parents to work together on the issue.
"There are many parents who are misled to believe that although they have some money, they need not pay; that the Government will pay. We are saying no, it must be paid, even on a terms basis over the year," he said.
"Secondly, it must be for the good judgement of the principal and the staff to determine those who genuinely cannot pay and must be allowed to register and to perform notwithstanding," the minister told Career & Education.
Thwaites said the matter of auxiliary fees requires public understanding and support.
"I am asking for the support of the mass media, the teaching profession and the nation that even in difficult times we need to put more money into PATH (Programme for Advancement through Health and Education) so that the more than 50 per cent who can't pay nonetheless make a contribution to the school," he stated.
PATH is a cash transfer that assists needy children to attend school.
Asked whether the education ministry would mediate in any dispute between schools and parents over the payment of auxiliary fees, Thwaites said the ministry was willing to intervene if necessary. However, he hoped that school administrators are able to address such problems themselves.
"I really think that people prize education enough and see the benefit to their children sufficiently that they will want to comply. It is going to require a shift of national and personal priorities and I am looking for everybody's support for that," he said.
Commenting on the ministry's policy on auxiliary fees, past president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Paul Adams said his association will examine the matter later this month and state its position on them.