GLEANER: Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid, yesterday, made a public apology to the nation's teachers and school administrators for his reference to several learning institutions as extortionists.
"The satisfaction of teachers and effective administration of our schools run in my blood, having been a classroom teacher, master teacher,
JTA (Jamaica Teachers' Association) president, now minister, and a parent," a repentant Reid said yesterday, while addressing the 53rd annual conference of the JTA at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay.
"It is also my desire that we are as satisfied as possible, so it is within this context and with respect to the wonderful relationship that we have had - the leadership of the JTA, the
principals' association, and our boards - and so as a lay
preacher myself, I have to lead by example (and I remember, at times, Jesus Himself used some harsh words and He Himself had to reflect on it), and I have personally reached out and have withdrawn those statements, but I want to publicly apologise for any hurt that may have occurred in that regard."
Held Hands, Prayed
After this act of contrition, the roomful of educators stood, held hands, and repeated the Lord's Prayer.
Reid made the controversial comment at a post-Cabinet press briefing where he singled out several prominent high schools and accused them of corruption and extortion in charging auxiliary fees. This drew the ire of the JTA and other interest groups, which demanded that he withdraw the statement.
... Says teachers the biggest cost for education
Education Minister Ruel Reid and his team went to the Jamaica Teachers' Association conference well prepared for a face-off one day after the 24,954 membership association rejected a three per cent wage increase offer from the Government.
"Just for the record, there has been a lot of discussion about education, and the biggest cost are us, the teachers," Senator Reid said. "So there is no truth that any recent government has spent only $19,000 per capita per child.
"Certainly, at the secondary level, we are spending upward of $37 billion on secondary education alone, and so some schools will see a higher per capita of a $119,000 and some will see $176,000. Whatever has come our way, we have not withheld anything from you. We have even been creative and have given you more and above that which you have asked or thought about."
Reid said that wherever there were persons willing to make contributions to education, the ministry would encourage it. "So I don't want people to twist and misunderstand what I am saying.
"We do not have a mandatory-fee policy, but what we are saying is that Government must provide as much resources as is necessary - make sure we fund the core services, make sure we pay our teachers - and the parents should be so motivated that those who can, can make their contribution."
The JTA conference is being held under the theme "Navigating the Education Landscape: Transforming, Engaging, Collaborating, Facilitating and Leading".
CAPTION: Senator the Honourable Ruel Reid, Minister of Education