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'Give us more money'

Yallahs High principal calls for increase in funding, resources for non-traditional schools

Senior staff reporter

Monday, September 02, 2019

PRINCIPAL of Yallahs High School in St Thomas Mark Malabver is calling on the Ministry of Education to provide more resources to rural and non-traditional schools, noting that for too long these institutions have been neglected.

Malavber, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer North & East last Wednesday at the school, said it is time the “powers that be end the grand announcements” which do not reflect the reality on the ground.

“I do wish that my colleagues would speak up more on these issues. I challenge my colleagues to speak up and demand better service from the powers that be in relation to proper funding of schools, proper resources being given to upgraded (non-traditional) schools and end the grand announcements.

“The system needs to be more responsive to the needs of teachers, the system needs to be responsive to the needs of principals, it needs to be more responsive to the students who are our primary responsibility. Rural schools suffer even more because of where they are located,” Malavber said, ahead of the new school year which begins today.

He wants the education ministry to revisit the mechanism used to determine how it allocates money to schools, arguing that rural and non-traditional high schools deserve the bulk of cash given the challenges they face.

“Quite frankly, what the ministry sends over per head is just not enough to run the school, to provide resources to teachers, to do all the various things that ought to be done. It's like trying to put a square peg in a round hole to make it fit. You have to be more than a genius to make it work. We have a good percentage of our students who are on the PATH [Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education] programme; more than 50 per cent, I think it's around 60 per cent of our students,” the principal said.

“It's the nature of upgraded schools that so many students are on PATH programme. That is going to pose more challenge for us later down the year in terms of catering to their nutritional needs because what (money) the ministry sends to us dries up almost in the middle of the year towards the backend,” Malavber added.

He said to compound matters, fewer than 20 per cent of parents contribute financially to the development of the school because of a Ministry of Education policy, which allowed for the discontinuation of auxiliary fees for public schools although there is an increase in subventions to some schools.

Under that policy, the Government is expected to absorb the cost for core operational services, while parents are expected to contribute to development and sports.

“Certainly schools like Yallahs suffer from this, and where you get that money from (contribution) is really those students that are coming into grade seven. It's sparse throughout grades eight, nine and 10. It is a challenge because that money would have helped to bolster what it is that we are doing. We aren't even collecting a million dollars good.

“The disparity between upgraded high schools and non-traditional high schools, in terms of funding, is huge. The ministry needs to look at funding for upgraded high schools. It simply can't be that you pay the same amount of money per head per student in an upgraded high school as you do for a student in a traditional high school. It invariably costs more to educate a child in an upgraded high school than a traditional high school because of the level they come to us at. It costs more because a lot of them are on welfare programmes. We are just not able to cope because of that,” Malavber stressed, adding that more should be given to rural, non-traditional high schools for school improvement plans.

He also said a lot of renovations that are needed at his school are still on hold because of a lack of funding.

The educator said, too, that the lack of resources at the school could lead to dispute among students.

He told Observer North & East that the school, with just over 800 students, is short 200 chairs.

“We have engaged the ministry to see how best we can get those chairs. We have not heard anything in that regard. We don't have a shortage of desks particularly because Food For the Poor has donated to us. They really came in at a point in time when we needed them and we have more than enough desks. I'm mindful of the fact that if we don't get these chairs in we will have an increase in fights because of the chronic shortage.

“There are also issues with teacher material that we are seeking to sort out. We are doing our best to get that sorted but it's a struggle,” he said.