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Minister of Education, Andrew Holness has informed that as of November, schools will begin the process of reimbursement of tuition fees. The exercise is expected to be completed by the end of the school term on December 19.
The Minister was speaking at a press briefing held at the Ministry’s Heroes Circle offices on (Sept. 25). As of the start of the new academic year, children attending secondary schools between Grades Seven and 13 will not be required to pay the obligatory endorsed fees.
“Formerly parents were asked to pay 50 per cent of the endorsed fees. That is no longer the case. The Ministry of Education will now transfer all (endorsed fees) to the schools,” Mr. Holness said.
“Endorsed fees, which would be the Government’s contribution and the parents’ contribution for 216,000 students in secondary schools, would work out to be $1.8 billion. Already we have paid over to schools $440 million and we made that advance in August. That represents 29 per cent of the total amount that the government would normally transfer,” Mr. Holness continued.
He added that the Ministry intends to transfer a further $800 million to schools by November. This, he said, would place the schools in a position where they would have received 75 per cent of the allocation that they would have had from government.
“Out of that 75 per cent of their allocation we would be asking the schools to make the refund to parents who paid the fees already. We have sent a bulletin to all the schools through the regions, and I have met with all the stakeholders involved and have explained to them the procedure that would be involved in making the refund,” Mr. Holness explained.
The Education Minister stated that the reimbursement of tuition fees should go directly to the children’s parents and stressed that schools should not deduct any fees that were owed previously to the schools by the parents.
“So the entire amount of the refund should go to the parents. The refund must be done in the form of a cheque and the refund must be done to the recognised legal guardian of the child. We will not make refunds to institutions,” Mr. Holness said.
He also added that the refunding is “not an infinite process and will not continue indefinitely, and by the end of the December school term the refund offer would expire. So parents ought to try and claim their refunds within this time period.” He however noted that if parents wanted to return the refunded money to their children’s schools, they are at liberty to do so.
“In order not to violate our commitment of the refund, we are asking that there must be a record of the transaction where the parent picks up that cheque and signs that they have received the cheque and that is a critical part of the refund,” Mr. Holness stressed.
“Whatever happens after the parents sign for the cheque, that is between the school and the parent; but for our purposes we would want to see that the cheque goes through a process where the parent sign that they have received the cheque,” he added.
The Minister noted that all refunds will have to be supported by proper documentation “so we would like to see parents present their vouchers for repayments.”
“There may be cases where vouchers do not exist, we have given instructions to the principals as to how to handle it and the principals themselves are very capable and they can handle those situations if they should arise,” Mr. Holness said.
The Minister also informed that all the schools have been asked to prepare a list of parents who have paid their tuition fees, so that the Ministry “would have an idea as to how much the refund would be. We have given them a deadline, which is by the end of September.”
In the meantime, the remaining 25 per cent of the $1.8 billion that should be given to the schools by the Government will be allocated in February 2008. This Mr. Holness said, would “complete our commitment for taking on the entire amount of the obligatory fees or tuition fees.”