- Prime Minister the Most. Hon. Andrew Holness, in reiterating the Government’s commitment to ensuring that all students receive a full secondary education, says this increased funding is in keeping with the administration’s decision to remove any barriers to entry to these institutions.
- “This would be the time of the year that schools would least have funding and the time when they would need the funding most and this would give them more lead time in terms of preparations for the new school year. So we are expecting come September, schools will be well ready and oiled to deliver quality education,” the Minister adds.
- The Education Ministry has stipulated that these voluntary contributions should not exceed $20,000 per year, inclusive of registration fee. The Ministry will be auditing each school to ensure compliance with the policy. For those schools whose contribution is more than this amount, the specific case must be presented to the respective Regional Director for approval to be granted.
The Government is insistent that no child, particularly at the secondary level, should be denied access to education, prompting its decision to remove auxiliary fees for these institutions.
Under this new policy, which comes into effect at the start of the 2016/17 academic year in September, the administration has increased its total annual funding to high schools from $2.6 billion to $5.1 billion.
This means that the Ministry of Education’s subvention to institutions will now move from $11,500 to $19,000 per student. Already, $1.4 billion has been disbursed to all secondary schools.
Prime Minister the Most. Hon. Andrew Holness, in reiterating the Government’s commitment to ensuring that all students receive a full secondary education, says this increased funding is in keeping with the administration’s decision to remove any barriers to entry to these institutions.
Speaking in a recent interview with JIS News, Mr. Holness argues that this access to secondary education is not just an entitlement, “but almost a right.”
“To argue against that would be saying that some persons should only be able to access secondary education by virtue of their ability to pay,” Mr. Holness says.
However, despite the removal of auxiliary fees, parents who are in a position to do so are being encouraged to make voluntary contributions to the development of their children’s school.
According to portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, the Government is committed to “funding education to the best of its ability”, while allowing for parents to make additional contributions.
“That is what the policy simply is…there really is no need to pay for tuition, so any request is really a contribution because the Government is insistent that we will pay for tuition, we will pay the teachers, we will pay largely for the operation of schools. What you are contributing to is the further development of these institutions,” Mr. Reid explains in a recent JIS interview.
Also making a call for parents to make voluntary contributions is Principal of the Old Harbour High School, Lynton Weir, who says at his school, this is dubbed “developmental contributions”.
He argues that schools cannot “survive effectively and efficiently without parents on board and playing and doing their part towards education”.
“As educators, we are trying to provide the best education possible for our children. One of the things that I do know (is that) our parents also want the best education for their children,” Mr. Weir says.
“That is why we have said to our parents, that (while) it is not mandatory, we are asking for you to come on board with us and help us by making your contributions because we are not going to have successful development in our schools if we don’t have these contributions coming,” he adds.
Mr. Weir, who is also President of the Association of Principals and Vice-Principals, stresses however that parents who are unable to make these non-obligatory contributions, will not be turned back “because we deal with fulsome education”.
“We are very inclusive. So even now when we have developmental contributions to be made, if a parent is not able to make the contribution, we are welcoming our parents because we are an inclusive school….we are not going to turn back our children. The nation’s children must be educated,” he stresses.
He is encouraging parents to come in and discuss a payment plan “because I am willing right now to say to a parent, if you can only afford $100 a week, come and pay (that). Whatever it is that you can afford, I’m willing to sit with that parent and work out an effective payment plan”.
Mr. Weir notes however, that if the parent cannot make any payment at all, even with a payment plan, “we are still accepting the child because the child must be educated, the child must be catered for”.
In the meantime, Mr. Weir says he is pleased that schools received 50 per cent of the first tranche of funding in June.
He explains that the remaining two payments of 25 per cent each, are to be received in September and December.
“We are currently working with (the original subvention of) $11,500…so we have received 50 per cent of that, which is very good because it’s the first time that we have received (the funds) so early. So principals are busy now doing back to school preparations,” Mr. Weir says.
According to the Education Minister, the administration is especially pleased that it has fulfilled its commitment to disbursing funds to schools in a timely manner.
(“This is) the very first time in history of Jamaica that high schools are getting funds so early in June…they were more accustomed to getting (the funds) in August,” Senator Reid says.
“This would be the time of the year that schools would least have funding and the time when they would need the funding most and this would give them more lead time in terms of preparations for the new school year. So we are expecting come September, schools will be well ready and oiled to deliver quality education,” the Minister adds.
For Vice Principal of Mavis Bank High, Albert Green, his hope is that with this new policy, the compliance level for voluntary contributions will be better than it was for compulsory fees.
“For the last school year, 2015/16, and it’s a trend…just 43 per cent of (parents) pay the (auxiliary) fee… But with this new policy, the money from the Government is a guaranteed one, so….we can plan for it ahead of time, so there wouldn’t be a need for us to be begging and beseeching parents to pay, so I welcome the idea,” he says.
He notes that Mavis Bank High, which is a small school with just little over 500 students enrolled, does not offer as many programmes as traditional schools that would need more capital to undertake them.
“Mavis Bank runs a sports programme, mainly athletics, but we do volley ball and football to a lesser extent, but our main focus is really track and field. With that, we are able to fund our programme but maybe for other schools they would need more funding,” he said.
He argues that with the Government’s new commitment of $19,000 for each student, this will still not be enough for some schools, but this is where schools will have to prioritize how it spends its money, as well as become innovative and raise its own funds.
“You will always want more, but you just have to ensure that you give priority to the most important areas, so that you don’t burden yourself, you don’t burden the parents and to a lesser extent, you don’t allow the student to feel (short changed)…Where it can’t hold at the seams allow the Government to step in and deal with it,” he argues.
He shares that with the Government’s approval, the school plans annual fund-raising events for any programme that needs financial support.
Meanwhile, parents have also welcomed the move to remove auxiliary fees, which has lessened the burden to fund their children’s education.
For Robert Tulloch whose son attends Claude McKay High was among the few parents who paid auxiliary fees when it was compulsory, as he understood how important it was to contribute to his child’s education.
He encourages other parents to make voluntary contributions as this will not only be beneficial to the development of the school, but enhance the overall quality of education of their children.
“I work in the Government system….We don’t have money, so where we get contributions, it goes a far way, so that is why I choose to make my contribution,” he notes.
Anchuny Deans, who is guardian for his nephew at Tichfield High School, says he has no objections to parents making voluntary contributions “once it is in their reach”.
“I am glad that the Government is doing that (increasing funding to schools) ….and that money is guaranteed, so that is a very good thing that they are doing; you can rely on this. But if some of these (parents) can assist wherever they can assist they (should) for the good of the child,” he says.
The Education Ministry has stipulated that these voluntary contributions should not exceed $20,000 per year, inclusive of registration fee. The Ministry will be auditing each school to ensure compliance with the policy.
For those schools whose contribution is more than this amount, the specific case must be presented to the respective Regional Director for approval to be granted.
Parents and guardians are advised to consult with their Parent Teacher Associations and Regional Offices of the ministry if they have concerns. They may also send emails to email@example.com.