I have just read a letter published in SN on March 28 entitled ‘Some private schools leave much to be desired’ written by Sahadeo Bates. It would be an injustice for the public to be misled by that letter.
Mr Sahadeo has condemned parents for being out of touch with reality because he seems to suggest that the quality of private schools is not worth the fight. I wonder when was the last time he took a look at the NGSA results. At this level, it is indeed private schools that dominate, and those few public school students who squeeze into the top 100 are not products of their public school, but masterpieces of private lessons.
Mr Sahadeo clearly and correctly stated that parents will be burdened with directly paying the VAT. He goes on to question whether parents know what they are defending when picketing. Is it not clear that they are defending themselves and their children? If the VAT will be a burden on them, then they are not fighting in the interest of the school but the interest of their own child’s future, and as an extension that of our country.
Mr Sahadeo lambasted an emotional parent for what appears to be an exaggeration of the standards of the public school. I myself would not allow any dishonest slander to be the basis of the ‘No VAT on education’ argument, but this is one questionable case and should not be used to discredit the entire movement.
Mr Sahadeo had questioned the motive behind parents sending their children to a private school. He stated that parents send their children who are not educated or qualified enough to attend ‘bright schools’ (Queen’s College, Saints etc) to private schools so as to not look bad in their social group. Personally, I believe that this is a right granted to parents under our Constitution and a matter of human rights. Their hands should not be forced. If they want to protect their social clout then let them do so. However, I do not believe that this is the case at all. The ‘reality’ is that most schools below the ‘bright schools’ are of a deplorable standard in terms of infrastructure and teaching amongst many other shortcomings.
Mr Sahadeo goes on to present the case of a West Demerara “private school which I believe should be investigated”. I share his concerns where some private schools are not meeting the standards they are supposed to, and it is the job of the Ministry of Education to keep them in check, not VAT.
It must be clarified that the protest actions against the VAT on private education are not in the interest of private institutions but in the interest of parents, in the interest of our children and in the interest of our country. There are indeed other issues in the private system like tax compliance, but VAT is not the answer to those issues; it in no way solves the issue of tax compliance. VAT in no way solves the issue of the standards of the private institutions. Both of those issues are already the job of GRA and the Ministry of Education respectively to handle.
The reality, Editor, is that parents and students are defending their future. It has nothing to do with the private schools themselves because they will go about their business as usual. It is our people who get hurt and that is the sad reality.