Schools are still demanding exorbitant registration fees to enroll students, according to some parents.
In response to reports that some schools were charging exorbitant fees for registration, the Ministry of Educa-tion recently said students must not be debarred for non-payment of registration fees. It noted, in a statement, that it had sent a circular last year to all senior education officers and head teachers at all public schools advising that children have a right to school without preconditions.
However, in a letter to the editor, published in Stabroek News’ August 12 edition, representatives from Red Thread stated that some schools were demanding as much as $15,000 in “registration fees” that appear to be compulsory.
“The Minister of Education has said openly that non-payment of any fees should never be criteria for students being barred from schools, yet this is the case at most city schools,” Susan Collymore of Red Thread told Stabroek News. “Unfortunately,” she stated, “schools are still charging fees, while only now referring to them as ‘PTA [Parent-Teacher Association] dues.’” Further, she said, many times parents are forced to “borrow or beg” so as not to embarrass their children when teachers openly make snide comments about persons with outstanding fees.
In the letter, it was noted that Stella Maris Nursery is charging $3000 for PTA and $1500 for games clothes; St Christopher Nursery, $2500 for PTA and $2000 for games clothes; St Roses High, $15,000;Central High, $7,000; North Georgetown Secondary, $5,000; East Ruimveldt Secondary, $5,000; Dolphin Secondary, $6,200; Charlestown Secondary, $4,000; Freeburg Secondary, $3,500; and Tucville Secondary, $5,500.
The ministry has advised parents that only the PTA has the authority to approve and collect money, once one third of the PTA has given approval.
The circular, the ministry said, stated that parents must be informed via a notice that clearly states that they are expected to make a decision on the amount of the donation that should be requested. All donations must be acknowledged, kept and managed by the PTA and receipts issued by the treasurer, or any other member so authorised in writing.
Stabroek News sought comments from Ministry of Education officials on the situation, but they were not at the time in a position to do so.
At the Skeldon Secondary School, in Berbice, parents are charged $2,000 dollars as PTA dues. A senior teacher from the school informed Stabroek News that the PTA body handles all monies paid by parents. This, he added, is then used to buy stationery and other supplies for the school. For the last ten years, Stabroek News was informed, the “school has not received one single piece of furniture from the Regional Department of Education. Sometimes the students have to sit on the windows, and this is no joke.”
At schools on the Essequibo Coast, registration fees and PTA dues range from $1,500 to $2,500. One teacher from the Abrams Zuil Secondary School said that the school charges $1,500 and monies collected go towards purchasing stationery and the infrastructural upkeep of the school.
In Linden, Stabroek News was reliably informed, fees range from $2,500 to $4,500. At city schools, the minimum amount for nursery schools was $2,500 and could exceed $5,000.
For secondary and senior secondary schools the “PTA dues ranged from $3,500 to $15,000.” At some schools, parents were informed that ties, clothing for physical education, school accident insurance and in some instances a brief history of the school were included in the cost.
Stabroek News found no case where any school official was collecting money. Several head teachers, who only spoke on the basis of anonymity, stated that they would not jeopardise their job for a “few hundred dollars.” One head teacher said, “no one can ever say that I or [any] member of staff collects monies from them. The PTA is responsible, and it’s them who handle all monetary contributions made to this school, and parents pay these fees into that body.”