No. 130 Friday, August 20, 2010
By Western Mirror
It’s the back to school season again and, as usual, parents and guardians face the task of outfitting their children and wards with the Uniforms, books, bags, shoes and the like. As they go about ensuring that those items are in place, there are some issues that they will have to contend with.

   One such issue is the payment of auxiliary fees which many public schools have introduced to keep them afloat after the Bruce Golding-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government abolished tuition fees for secondary schools. Parents also have to prepare for a possible strike action by teachers over the ongoing wage dispute with the government.
   First of all, let’s look at the cost of textbooks. Yesterday, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) announced that the results of its recently conducted islandwide book survey show that parents and guardians will have to pay an average of six per cent increase for most text books.
   At a time when the salary of the average Jamaican parent and guardian has to be stretched to meet so many expenses after being so heavily taxed, most of these persons will have difficulty funding their children’s/wards’ education. So severe are some cases, that the money to purchase textbooks has to be used for paying a bill which is due or paying bus or taxi fare, and so on.
   The auxiliary fees, in the meantime, have got very high. Some parents have not been able to pay these fees. What has resulted, as was reported as recently as yesterday, is that high schools are withholding the CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Examinations Certificate) results of non-paying students. This is just one of the repercussions of the no- school fee policy. 

   And this week at the annual conference of Jamaica Teachers’ Association, irate teachers, fed up with the government’s non-payment of outstanding salaries, said that the possibility of strike action at the start of the year exists.
   At the centre of all these problems is money. The time for playing politics and pussyfooting around these issues has long gone. The free-education policy has to be revised because the subventions from the government are not meeting all the daily expenses of many schools, hence the auxiliary fees. The government must also seek to settle the old and drawn-out salary issue with teachers. In the meantime, we wish parents all the very best with their back to school preparations. We urge parents to be as financially prudent as possible as they seek to have their children educated, bearing in mind that this is a most worthwhile investment.

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