Parent-Teacher VP disagrees with president on tuition fee issue

Sunday, August 19, 2018

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The second vice-president of the National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA), Stuart Jacobs, has disagreed with his newly selected president, Lennon Richards, over how schools should handle the Ministry of Education's no-tuition fee policy.

Richards, who has represented the Jamaica Labour Party in general elections in Central St Mary wants the education ministry to “expose any school authority of administrators who violate the no-tuition fee policy”.

Richards made the comments at the end of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) first parent sensititation and consultation series held Thursday evening at the Merl Grove High School in St Andrew.

Richards told the Jamaica Observer after the meeting that schools should abide by the Government's policy.

“Of course, schools need money to run their operations, but there are ingenious ways that can make these operations successful; there are various ways of generating funds. Parents are already burdened with many things and the no-tuition fee policy, if it is being violated in any way or form, the ministry should expose these schools.”

But Jacobs, who is president of the Kingston College Parent-Teacher Association, in a response to the Sunday Observer, suggested that Richards spoke out of turn as the executive of the NPTA had not discussed the issue and had not taken a policy position on it.

“The decisions made by the MOE over the past two school years are plain irresponsible; no thought and blatant ignoring the lifeline of a school's growth and development,” Jacobs said.

“I am from a 'haves' school — student for seven years and never resigned from KC. We are poised to be a “haves not” due to the lack of school fees.

“Where will the funding be derived from for extra materials in labs, field trips, minor sports, service clubs, specialised teachers/coaches. The funds to drive these facilities as well as value-added streams to our students will be thwarted, thus resulting into a dwarfed product — our student education experience.”

Jacobs wants Minister of Education Ruel Reid to revisit the issue of user fees in schools.

“The minister should rescind this decision of no school fees so as to allow for the growth of our schools. There is a clear understanding of affordability. In those isolated cases, as is practiced by us at KC, we allow for payment plans. These plans at times span the full school year. Many a parent have expressed to me, 'Mr Jacobs, the school fee was well worth it... look at my boy.'

“We need to consider, for the sake of our education, to give the best of ourselves to children. This must be done on behalf of the PTA. Many of our students are from the inner city, and we create an environment within which they can thrive and discover skills they did not know they had,” Jacobs stated.

Eyebrows were raised in some circles when it emerged that Richards had been elected as president of the organisation, as some questioned his close association with Reid, which might compromise certain situations.

Under the no-fee plan, the Government is absorbing the cost for core operations at the secondary school level, with parents expected to continue to support the general development of schools, in particular their sports programmes which, for many of the older institutions, are supported by past students.

The Government has budgeted $8.3 billion in funding support for secondary schools for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

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