KINGSTON –– Prime Minister Andrew Holness Tuesday informed Parliament that his Government will introduce legislation to give Jamaican children the right to free education up to the secondary level.
At the same time, he announced that funding to high schools will be increased from JA$2.6 billion to JA$5.3 billion.
“We are now, therefore, looking at making the right to free education explicit in law, and I have directed the minister of education, youth and information, who is here with us, to examine the existing legislation with a view to making it illegal for any child to be denied the right to a secondary education,” Holness said in a statement to the House of Representatives.
He said that his government felt that education should be compulsory for children up to 18 years old. However, he said that while current legislation provides for free access to education from early childhood to primary school, access is not defined as a right in the Constitution, although education regulations and child care and protection legislation place an obligation on the State to provide educational opportunities.
He said that to help safeguard that entitlement, the government will insist on keeping its commitment to remove auxiliary fees from high schools.
“We could never countenance a policy in which children who do well at GSAT, or whatever examination that may replace that, that their entitlement to a place in a high school becomes compromised by their inability to afford the fees,” he stated.
Ministry Paper Number 85/16, which he tabled in the House, showed that the government intends to more than double the funding to high schools, from JA$2.6 billion to JA$5.3 billion.
“This government is serious about education,” the prime minister said to long and loud applause from members of his governing Jamaica Labour Party in the House.
According to the Ministry Paper, a total of JA$5,337,419,400.44 has been identified for disbursement to the schools. The ministry paper noted that the figure was outside the the regular subvention for the payment of full-time teaching and non-teaching staff.
The ministry also listed the total payment to more then 170 high schools, with the largest amounts going to non-traditional high schools mainly in the rural areas.
Among the highest beneficiaries of the programme were: Old Harbour High, JA$120 million, Maggotty High, JA$111.6 million; Charlie Smith High, JA$81 million; Muschett High, JA$76 million; Cedric Titus High, JA$63.6 million; Maldon High, JA$50 million; Jamaica College, JA$47 million; St James High, JA$46.6 million; Brown’s Town High, JA$45 million; Kingston College, JA$44 million; Ocho Rios High, JA$44 million; and Black River High, JA$40.2 million.