Books must be made available
The answer to the question is no.
No principals nor any other member of staff at any public secondary school in Barbados can withhold text books from any child as long as those books have been paid for.
This is the declaration from Deputy Chief Education Officer (Schools) Joy Adamson as she responded to comments surrounding a parent who was not issued books for her son after she was unable to pay the $15 Parent Teacher Association fee set by the St. Leonard’s Boys’ Secondary School.
Adamson, who returned to work today, said she dealt with the matter before she went off and holiday and was very surprised that the matter had not been resolved.
“The matter was brought to my attention and I gave a directive to have it resolved. I went further and sent a circular to all the schools, to all principals in our public secondary schools which stated that they could not withhold books as long as those books were paid for. Quite frankly I was very surprised to learn that the books still were not issued,” she said.
Adamson also added that there was need for clarity so parents understand what was required of them as different things happen at different schools. She also stressed that she would be meeting with all principals of primary and secondary schools to eliminate any further problems.
“The fee in question is voluntary. We would like everybody to be a part of the PTA but some are just not interested in the running of the school. I will be meeting with all the principals and I will look further into this situation and where possible we will have to regularise this across the board because we cannot be seen as not being fair to poor people like that.
“These fees are their prerogative. Different schools focus on different programmes and that is usually where you get the introduction of certain fees. It really comes down to the relationship with parents; but to withhold text books is definitely something we cannot do. I know of cases where books are issued and all that had been paid were the petty fees. There is definitely need for clarity,” she added.
Up to last week the text books still were not issued to the mother who after several trips to the Ministry of Education and the St. Leonard’s Boy School was reduced to tears.
The mother reportedly turned to the Ministry of Education who sent her back to the school to get the books but again the refusal of the administration sent her back to the ministry. Being refused again and unable to pay the $15 demanded of her, she broke down in tears not knowing where to go or who to turn to for help.
Several parents also shared her plight, complaining about the implementation of fees at the Richmond Gap institution and other schools across the island.
Stressing that times were very hard, some of the parents who contacted Barbados Today with their complaints made it clear that they were not interested in the PTA and had no intentions of paying such fees.
There were also gestures of kindness as several persons also volunteered to pay the fees so the textbooks could be issued.