Contingency fees must not deny a child education
Ministry to be on the alert
August 15, 2000
President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday stated categorically that all school contingency fees are voluntary and no child should be denied educational opportunities because of a parent's inability to pay the fee.
His statement came amid widespread concern among parents over contingency fees.
To this end the Ministry of Education and the Teaching Service Commission are expected to be on the alert for any school which might compel students to make financial payments for whatever reason.
During a brief interface with the media yesterday at the Office of the President in the presence of Minister of Education Dr. Dale Bisnauth, Jagdeo expressed concern over numerous complaints received from parents in Tucville, Georgetown to as far as Tain on the Corentyne over the amount and use of money collected by schools as contingency fees.
"Let me make it clear that it is not the policy of my Government for schools to demand money from parents as a condition for admission, tuition, textbooks or report cards", Jagdeo asserted, adding that his administration is "committed to the provision of free education from the Nursery to the Secondary Level".
He pointed out that despite all that the State is doing to improve education, which included raising the salaries of teachers, providing text books and a better learning environment, "there are cases where parents because of their inability to pay the stipulated fees, find it difficult to receive end-of-term reports, examination results and textbooks". He noted as well that in some instances children are denied admission.
He further stated that even in cases where the payments are made, "parents complain that they are still requested to supply schools with toilet paper, soap, and paper for writing tests".
Moreover, pointed out Jagdeo, parents with more than one child complain that too much is being asked of them. "Children, whose parents cannot pay contingency fees, are put under undue peer pressure; sometimes they are publicly taunted."
In light of these developments, the President categorically stated that: *any contribution should be voluntary; *Voluntary contributions made to schools should be properly accounted for; *No child should be punished or denied educational opportunity because of his/her parents' inability to contribute to any contingency fund. No child should be publicly admonished if his/her parents do not contribute; *I have instructed the Ministry of Education and the Teaching Service Commission to ensure that those who continue with this practice are appropriately dealt with; *Parents should report any demand for fees to the Ministry of Education.
Jagdeo added that his Government is "committed to improving the education sector and will ensure that there is equal access to all educational facilities for all our children whatever their parents' economic ability."
As a result of the President's statement, Bisnauth told reporters that the announced stipulation of contingency fees for the various school levels by the Ministry of Education two weeks ago will be reviewed.
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