Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, says parents who fail to send their children to school on a regular basis could face strict penalties under the Education Act and the Child Care and Protection Act.
Mr. Holness was speaking at a press conference, held at the Ministry on September 1, to address back-to-school issues.
He said the current 80 per cent school attendance rate was unacceptable and he was considering having certain areas declared compulsory attendance zones, under the Education Act, adding that poverty would not be considered a valid excuse for absenteeism.
Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, speaking at a back-to-school press conference at the Ministry on September 1.
“There are parents who are not sending their children to school regularly. I want to (say) to those parents, if the difficulty is an economic one, if your household does not have the economic resources to send the children to school on a regular basis, that in itself, is not an excuse. I certainly do not accept it as an excuse,” he said.
Mr. Holness advised that parents who are facing economic constraints have a duty to reach out to the various relevant agencies set up to provide financial assistance to the needy.
These, he said, include the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), as well as their political representatives, school principals, guidance counsellors or ministers of religion.
“I could only forgive you if you tried and the system did not respond. That is your only excuse, but if you did not try and your children are not in school, then I find you guilty,” he argued.
The Minister said he has no doubt that most schools will have a 90 per cent attendance rate during the first week of September, but that as the academic year gets on the way, attendance will undoubtedly fall.
He said records have shown that there are students in the system who are registered, but only attend on certain days, while there are those who do not attend school at all.
“That’s a significant loss of contact time in education. This is not just a rural phenomenon. We notice that this is significant in urban, inner city areas,” he noted.
Mr. Holness acknowledged that in some inner city areas, the complaint of non attendance is often linked to the level of violence in the community. “I am aware that the eruption of violence has had an impact on the attainment of literacy and of course attendance in the school,” he said.