PORT ANTONIO — The Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, says a decision has been taken to privatise the operation of tuck shops and canteens in public schools.
He made the disclosure at a meeting of school board chairmen from the parishes of Portland and St. Mary on Wednesday (May 18) at the College of Agriculture Science and Education (CASE) campus in Port Antonio.
The move by the Ministry comes against the background of audits conducted earlier this year, which revealed that funds allocated to tuck shops had gone missing. In one school alone, $1.8 million could not be accounted for.
The Minister told the board chairmen that the Government spends approximately $2 billion annually on the provision of nutrition in schools, and the wrongful use of the resources seriously jeopardises the nutrition of the students. He said that these funds should be handed in a responsible manner.
Citing other areas of shortcomings in the operation of schools, including the failure of a number of institutions to properly distribute text books, the Education Minister called on the boards to play a greater role in ensuring that there is accountability and transparency in the affairs of the schools they represent.
He said they need to be more vigilant and careful in affixing their signatures to documents authorising transactions by their schools.
Turning to the matter of safety and security, he said the Ministry has implemented a number of measures, including the appointment of deans of discipline and the provision of metal detectors to identify offensive weapons.
He implored school administrations to develop and apply strategies and procedures to complement these measures.
Minister Holness also exhorted the board chairmen to ensure that their schools are acting in accordance with the central policy directives for safety and control at their schools, noting that strict action will be taken against school administrators, who fail to follow the rules.
The policy, among other things, requires that schools take a zero tolerance approach against violence and to record and report all incidents.
By ASTON G. BAILEY