Paul Miller, vice-chair of the United Church’s Education Commission, is convinced that school fees have become a political football and has called for the interests of the students to be given priority at all times.
Miller, who was among a group of panellists at a recent Gleaner Editors’ Forum, said, lately, fees and issues with school boards had become areas of contention between the Church and the ministry of education.
“Partnership has made the school an enriching experience for everybody. The school represents a point of peace for everybody and it has to be maintained,” said Miller. “When you chip away at that partnership, you are entering into an area that is very difficult. One such area is the question of fees,” he said.
“It is clear from discussions [over the years] that the State’s contribution was not sufficient to cover the cost of a school and, therefore, other ways had to be found. One of the ways was fees, call it what you will; the truth is, it ends up as a cost to parents. But fees have become a politicised instrument now,” Miller declared.
Miller was alluding to the controversial tuition-free policy that was introduced by the current administration on assuming office in 2016. He pleaded with the education ministry and other stakeholders to make sure that everything was done to ensure that partnership is promoted and the interests of the students were protected.
“The point is that education rests on partnership, and when you interfere with that, we are in great danger. Our fear, right now, is that there is a movement of the State towards unilateral action, rather than collaborative action,” said Miller.