KINGSTON — Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness is warning school officials not to discriminate against students receiving benefits under the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).
Mr. Holness said the Ministry has received a number of complaints suggesting that some schools, especially at the primary level, have adopted the practice of giving students on the PATH specially marked tickets to receive lunch in the canteens, clearly making a distinction between them and other students.
The Minister, who was speaking to school board chairmen at a meeting on May 12 at the Immaculate Conception High School in Kingston, urged them to look into the issue.
He stated that absolutely no form of discrimination or distinction must be made against any student in the school system, whether or not they are receiving benefits under a particular programme.
“I am asking board chairmen to look in your schools to make sure there is no discrimination against students, who receive assistance from the state. All students must be treated equally. It is the dignity of our students that we must preserve, so that when they leave our schools they can be dignified,” Mr. Holness said.
He stated that the Ministry will be making its own checks to ensure that this practise does not continue in the school system.
The Education Minister, at the meeting, also raised concerns about the lack of proper record keeping amongst school officials.
“Record keeping is to your benefit because often times, when we come to audit the schools, what we see in the audit report is that no records of invoices can be found,” he remarked. “But yet, we see through the bank accounts where the funds have been expended, but nothing to say how the funds have been expended."
He urged the board chairmen to “enforce on the principals and teachers the duty to keep records,” and have them available for auditors as this is for their own protection.
Mr. Holness also pointed to the dearth of information on behaviour issues and “critical incidents”, which, he said, is as making it difficult for the Ministry to accurately measure the level of violence.
“We know that there is an improvement generally, in crime and violence in schools, we see it…but we still need to have the records – that’s critical,” he stated.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter