JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Education is implementing a number of new initiatives geared at improving the learning experience for vulnerable students.
  • The initiatives include the introduction of auxiliary fee assistance for students on the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH).
  • “Consistent with this administration’s philosophy to help the weakest, in the new academic year, the Ministry of Education will provide to schools for each of their PATH beneficiaries… all 82,181 of them, an additional $2,000 per student towards their auxiliary fees,”

With the 2014/15 academic year less than two weeks away, the Ministry of Education is implementing a number of new initiatives geared at improving the learning experience for vulnerable students.

The initiatives, which were announced by Portfolio Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, during his contribution to the 2014/15 Sectoral Debate in Parliament earlier this year, include the introduction of auxiliary fee assistance for students on the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH).

Under the programme, the Ministry will begin contributing an additional $2,000 per student towards the auxiliary fees for the 82,181 students on PATH. Minister Thwaites said this will provide additional financial relief to numerous schools, particularly those with a large number of PATH beneficiaries. He noted that many of the secondary schools whose students are from poorer families are hampered by their inability to collect auxiliary fees. The supplementary fees are considered as a necessary part of a school’s ability to finance its operations.

“Consistent with this administration’s philosophy to help the weakest, in the new academic year, the Ministry of Education will provide to schools for each of their PATH beneficiaries… all 82,181 of them, an additional $2,000 per student towards their auxiliary fees,” he stated. Minister Thwaites also encouraged all parents to view auxiliary fees as a contribution to their children’s education. Additionally, as of September, Early Childhood institutions will begin receiving assistance under the Ministry’s School Feeding Programme. Mr. Thwaites said the Ministry will expand the breakfast programme to provide free breakfast to 70 per cent of the early childhood or 138,000 children, including PATH beneficiaries, with the remaining 30 per cent having the option to make a contribution or pay in full. The Ministry has allocated $1.05 billion to this programme. The meals will include a combination of Nutrition Products Limited (NPL) goods, as well as breakfasts provided at the schools. The School Feeding Programme provides nutrition support in the form of meals and ‘nutribun’ snacks to encourage greater and more regular school attendance, along with enhancing the learning capacity of students. Mr. Thwaites said the intervention in Early Childhood institutions is aimed at drastically reducing the number of students in need of adequate nutrition. He informed that an evaluation conducted by the Ministry revealed that about 40 per cent of children are in need of constant supplement, while another 30 per cent sometimes go hungry.“

Research showing the harm done by poor nutrition to children in the early years, makes the school feeding programme a priority,” emphasised the Minister. “Our Early Childhood interventions are world-rated. All the studies point to inadequate or inappropriate nutrition as being a significant cause of poor brain and personality development.” The Education Minister has also informed that this year, PATH beneficiaries will begin receiving free lunches, three days each week. Parents will be asked to make a contribution of between $45 and $60 to help offset the costs associated with preparing lunches on the remaining two days.

Further assistance will also be extended this academic year to another group of vulnerable students. “There is another group of our children, about 30 per cent of the school population not on PATH, but are vulnerable. Sometimes they have lunch money, sometimes they do not. For this group, we will expect parents to pay about 50 per cent of the cost of their lunch whenever they can afford it,” he stated.

“We also have children whose families experience a crisis from time to time; we will ask our principals to continue to look out for these children and feed them as and when necessary,” Minister Thwaites urged.

The new academic year begins on Monday, September 1.