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MONTEGO BAY — Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, says the Government is giving serious thought to the level of support that can be given to independent schools which are seriously affected by the economic crisis.

“Recently you would have noticed that our private schools have suffered terribly, because of the economic downturn over the last three years. Several schools have closed, some have folded, others are barely hanging on,” the Minister noted.

He said that although the Ministry of Education has no intention of taking over those schools, it is very concerned about their situation.

“Preparatory Schools have formed the backbone of the delivery of specialized, high quality, personalized education in Jamaica, and we do not want to lose that feature of our education system,” he stated.

He was addressing the Valedictory Service for Paradise Preparatory School Graduating Class of 2011, in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland, on Thursday June 30.

He said that some amount of support is already being offered by the Ministry to the private institutions, but a careful look is now necessary at how the support can be improved.

“We have offered support, in terms of taking the GCT off electricity bills. Recently, I met with a group of independent schools, and they have asked that some approach be made to other utilities, including water and telephone, in terms of probably a subsidy,” he stated.

He also made mention of concessionary access to books and other educational material, as other means of support already being given to the institutions.

The Education Minister went on to point out that the structure of the Education Act is such that, if the government decides to fund these schools, depending on how it is done, they could automatically become public educational institutions. However, he said that in examining the problems being faced by the Independent schools, it is clear that the Government will have to step up its regulation of them.

                                                         

By Bryan Miller, JIS Reporter