JIS: Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, is assuring that all is in place for a smooth start to the new academic year, which officially begins on Monday (September 3).

 

“As part of our general preparations, school plants have been renovated, furniture and other equipment have been provided and, most important, the first tranche of operational grants have been sent to our schools in good time to allow for the smooth re-opening of our institutions,” he said.

 

The Minister, who was addressing a press conference at his National Heroes Circle office  in Kingston on Thursday (August 30), informed that a total of $8.4 billion, including the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) feeding grant, is being provided to secondary-level institutions for the school year.

 

He further noted that the disbursement of funds by the Ministry to all secondary institutions is being maintained at a maximum of $19,000 per student and special support in selected areas of up to $11,000 per student.

 

Senator Reid pointed out that for the 2018/19 academic year, the Government is “honouring our commitment to increase funding to primary, all-age and junior high schools…with a budget of $4.2 billion”.

 

Notably, for this academic year, the Government has also increased the maintenance grant for high schools to $500,000, up from $50,000.

 

Additional funding support will also be provided in the new school year to cover the payment for 1,007 cooks at primary and secondary schools, which amounts to $323.1 million.

 

The Government will also assist schools by providing payments totaling $887 million for temporary and part-time staff; and $105 million will be spent on upgrading schools’ canteens and the provision of equipment.

 

In terms of support for PATH students, the Minister informed that literature books are being provided for students on PATH at all levels of the secondary system at a cost of $120 million.

 

This is in addition to $26 million in payments for insurance for students on PATH and wards of the State at all levels.

 

The Government has also allocated $2,000 for each PATH student, to cover the cost for IDs and uniform-related items for those students at the all-age and junior high levels.

 

In addition, book vouchers have been provided for the neediest students to purchase back-to-school supplies; and 18 temporary Deans of Discipline will be provided to schools.

 

Other areas of support being provided by the Ministry include the provision of grants to cover Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programmes, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes, curriculum support, and other special requests.

 

In the meantime, Senator Reid informed that guidelines have been sent to schools regarding regular grants and parent contribution. He noted that schools have been reminded that the Ministry’s non-mandatory policy towards the payment of parents’ contribution remains in place.

 

“This applies to all groups, whether they are public sector or… whatever category…there are no mandatory fees. What we have done, particularly for high schools, is to expand the range of financial support to our schools, particularly where schools had to require payments to help with paying part-time teachers and extra staff,” the Minister said.

 

“Schools are adequately funded. If they are asking for extra money, then it must be seen as optional, not mandatory,” he added.

 

CAPTION: Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, responds to questions from journalists during a press conference at his National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston on Thursday (Aug. 30).