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More dialogue to settle increase in school fees
The newly-elected President of the Inter-Religious Organisation Canon Knolly Clarke believes that there should be further dialogue between the Education Ministry and the Association of Private Secondary Schools aimed at resolving the issue of the school fee paid by the Government to those schools.
Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, Clarke said he was not convinced that the request made by the schools for an increase from the current fee of $1,200 to $5,700 was “unreasonable,” given that “basic supplies for schools, toiletries, materials for labs, et cetera are very expensive, and the request for the increase may not be as exorbitant as we think.”
Clarke said before going to the Cabinet with a recommendation from his Ministry, Education Minister Anthony Garcia should “come together,” with the chairpersons of the Boards of the Private Secondary Schools, “and have some kind of dialogue immediately.”
Garcia has held one meeting with the Association of Primary Secondary Schools and officials of the Ministry subsequently met with the Association.
Yesterday, Garcia was due to meet with the Strategic Executive team to look at the recommendation from the Director of Planning on the request for the fee increase, formulated after meetings with officials of the Association.
Garcia said after looking at the recommendation he will take a note to Cabinet on Thursday.
Clarke said he did not think that it was right that the Ministry should determine the quantum without consulting with the boards of each of the schools affected.
He said, “Each board has a financial controller, these are the people who would know how they have to spend, how to cut and contrive.”
Clarke said if the Ministry makes such a decision without the input of the people affected, “You are creating more problems. Nothing will go well. It will solve nothing.”
He admitted that the private secondary schools “are going to get hurt if the Government does not put children in the schools. How will the teachers get paid? Because even though the Government does not pay the teachers, they are paid from the resources of the school. I would like to see more discussion, more dialogue in the interest of the children,” Clarke said.
He said there must be dialogue to resolve the issue because it is critical. He said even government-assisted schools have to host various fund-raising ventures to supplement the money which they get from the government because while it’s a big help, it’s just not enough.
Clarke said, “Even the small private schools have functions, St Mary’s College annually hosts the function, Saints who can cook, all of this is to raise funds, schools host Carnival all-inclusive fetes because in order to maintain schools in the 21st century is plenty money.”
He said, “We raise money in different ways because although the teachers of government-assisted schools are paid by the government, it is very expensive to upkeep the schools in terms of maintenance, which is very important.”
In his own time in the Anglican Church, he said, he got donations of chemicals for the labs, “because these things are expensive.”
Clarke said the issue of whether the IRO should mediate in the situation is to be discussed at a meeting of the executive of the organisation.
On the issue of the unusual delay in payment of fees to the private secondary schools for the term just ended, Garcia made it clear that was not the fault of the Ministry but as a result of the downturn to economic problems.
With the economy now turning around, he said, “I hope we will not see a recurrence of such a situation where our debtors have to wait quite some time so that we can discharge our responsibility.”
Garcia admitted to being “very concerned” about the situation, “and I am hoping we will be able to discharge our responsibility more effectively.”
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