Have you been following the huge controversy over the $100.00 school admission fee the past couple months?
I don’t have kids so i have not paid it too much attention, although I am aware of the broad outlines. With schools across the nation about to open next week i thought i should look a little closer at the issue.
My first thought about it was, what is a $100.00 entrance fee when you get an entire education free? Doesn’t it reflect how low we value our kids education when we refuse to pay just $100 to ensure they get a good education?
I asked a single mother about it…
She kinda jumped all over me. “what is the fee for?” she asked. “books & insurance” was my answer. “No we have to buy our own school books and insurance” apparently I was misinformed. She continued, “$100 isn’t much but when you add that to all the other stuff you have to buy to get ready for school it can be a burden! Especially when you aint getting nothing for it!”
So what is the fee for?
According to Minister of Education Desmond Bannister
“When this government was elected in 2007 we met in place a system where schools were seeking to assist parents by charging registration fees. These fees permitted parents to pay one fee to the school to cover items such as P.E. uniforms and for group insurance coverage for their children, thereby eliminating the need for parents to have to scramble all over town to have to deal with these matters themselves.”
The fee is supposedly optional and the insurance apparently covers the kids 24hours whether they are on campus or not, for their entire term at the school. Seemed like a sweet deal to me!
Well, except that the fee is being enforced as mandatory, with kids turned away because their parents could not pay up. In addition, Political activist and leader of The Worker’s Party Rodney Moncur, produced evidence of cases in which fees were paid but no insurance coverage payed for. Further revelations revealed that some schools were taking advantage of the fee, charging up to $400.00 in one case.
At the end of July, after weeks of agitation, press conferences, and name calling by Mr. Moncur, Minister Bannister released a statement clarifying the school fee issue. Here’s an excerpt
Section 38(1) of the Education Act provides that no fees shall be paid for admission to any public schools. That section also requires the Minister to provide books, writing materials, stationery, practice materials and other articles which are necessary to enable pupils to take full advantage of the education which is provided in so far as his resources permit.
I wish to confirm for the public record that no fees are charged for the admission of any child to a public school. Further no child is to be denied entry into any public school for any financial reason whatsoever.
And this reveals the reason for the controversy. Public education is supposed to be free! Bahamians should not be charged or have their kids refused entry to a government run school system! This charge is essentially another Tax levied on the backs of the Bahamian people.
The idea behind the fee was sound in my opinion, but like most things involving government, both PLP and FNM, it was/is not being executed properly.
— Straight Talk —