TTUTA: Too little $$ too late from Education Ministry for schools

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TUTTA president Martin Lum Kin –

WHILE he does not agree with the donations sought when new students are registered, TTUTA’s president Martin Lum Kin has said without fundraisers, including donations from parents, schools would not be able to function properly.

He said in a statement on Tuesday that if the Ministry of Education was fulfilling its financial obligation to these schools in a timely and satisfactory manner, the requests for contributions for new secondary students would not now be such a thorny issue.

The controversial issue has come to the fore as parents registering their children have been asked for sums ranging from $2,000-$4,500, they claim.

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly has called on principals of government and government-assisted schools and early childhood care and education centres (ECCE) to stop the practice.

She noted requests for voluntary contributions by many schools but underscored that no student or parent should be discriminated against for the inability to meet such requests.

Denominational school boards agreed with the minister that requests for donations should not be made at registration.

They said, however, donations and fundraisers help to offset such costs as security, maintenance, and repairs which are not borne by the ministry.

Lum Kin said in the absence of timely funding, it is educators and administrators who keep the schools afloat.

He highlighted some of the financial challenges faced by ECCE, primary and secondary schools.

At the ECCE level, he said, the ministry has failed to provide sufficient and, in some cases, any cleaners, along with a lack of cleaning supplies.

At the primary level, he said the $90 per student paid each academic year cannot meet the requirements for toilet paper, stationery, cleaning supplies and other incidentals.

“This does not include upkeep and maintenance of photocopying machines, consumables, and maintenance of printers.”

In addition, “Funds for minor repairs are not given directly to denominational schools. Monies are given to denominational boards, and administrators have to pay for the repairs and them submit claims to the denominational boards at the end of the calendar year.”

Lum Kin said over the years, greatly reduced funding for secondary schools has been paid in tranches every term.

“These funds are insufficient and released in an untimely manner. In some cases, only two of the three tranches are released for the school year.

“Principals have to pay for the telephone bills, repairs, upkeep of plant and equipment, the materials used for practical subjects during the term, and for school-based assessments (SBA).

“Denominational principals also have to pay the salaries of the security officers and cleaners based at their schools.”

He concluded: “Educators at the majority of the schools engage in fundraising activities to supplement the funding received from the MOE.

“Without such activities, many schools would be unable to function in the way they were intended to function.

“Educators continue to prop (up)the education system for the best interests of their charges, the children of TT.”