ALBERT TOWN, Trelawny — The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has accused the Government of covertly reintroducing cost-sharing in public schools.
The JLP, when it formed Government in 2007, introduced free tuition in secondary schools, bringing cost-sharing to a closure. The free tuition had formed a major plank of the JLP's election campaign and many believed it played a major role in helping the then Bruce Golding-led party to successfully wrestle power from the People's National Party (PNP), which had an 18-and-a-half-year run at the helm of the country.
Speaking Sunday evening at a JLP South Trelawny Workers Meeting at the Albert Town High School, current JLP Opposition Leader Andrew Holness described the move as "degenerating" and pledged to tackle the issue when Parliament resumes.
"How this Government is moving in a secretive way to reintroduce cost-sharing through the back door, we can't agree with that. And, I am just waiting until Parliament is opened to deal with it because if truth be told, it is a retrograde step," Holness stated.
Holness argued that under the cost-sharing system, some students will not be able to afford to "take up the place in the school" to which they were placed after sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test "because they have to be considering the financial issues".
"That is not what we wanted for Jamaica. What we wanted was for every child, from age three to 18, to have access to education without worrying about the cost," he said.
Meanwhile, speaking ahead of the party leader,
Marissa Dalrymple-Philibert, Opposition spokesperson on education, ridiculed Education Minister Ronald Thwaites' suggestion for schools to provide a payment plan for parents in an effort to mitigate economic challenges they face in paying auxiliary fees.
She said students will be kicked out of school when the fees are not paid.
"We can't continue to pay lip service and say do a payment plan because, at the end of the day, just like when you can't pay the mortgage the bank comes for the house. That is what is going to happen if we make plans that we cannot in fact afford to keep," said Dalrymple Philibert, who is the member of Parliament for South Trelawny.
"The minister says auxiliary fees are compulsory. It means that you have to pay. If not ,the schools can say to you (parents) that the child can't come into school," she added.
She also blasted the PNP administration for "not increasing the amount of money that goes to schools" since they formed the Government in 2011 and expressed empathy with school administrators who are faced with increasing expenses.
"The people running the schools, like the parents, are in a quandary. They have light bills, they have bills to pay, their costs are going up and the Government has not given more funds to operate the schools so that we can have the quality education that we go to Parliament and on the radio and talk about everyday," bemoaned the South Trelawny MP.