The NDC believes that access to quality education is a right to be enjoyed by all Grenadian children no matter their economic status; not a privilege for the well off.
In keeping with this conviction, the NDC Government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights on 6 September 1991; 170 other countries have signed this covenant.
Since education is a sure way out of poverty, we hold fast to the view that no Grenadian child should be left behind because his/her parents cannot afford the cost of education. It is therefore a primary responsibility of government to ensure that there is a level playing field when comes to access to education.
During the 2008 election campaign, the NDC presented a comprehensive plan for improvement in the education sector in the short, medium and long term. The NDC promised a free school books programme for all students in secondary schools and delivered on that promise within 8 weeks of assuming office. Today, this programme is largely phased out.
The first act against our people was the discontinuance of the programme in private schools. Then there was the refusal of government to replenish the texts books on a yearly basis to ensure the smooth continuance of the programme in the public schools. Now, these schools through their dedicated principals and teachers individually struggle to maintain what’s left of the programme.
As part of our vision for national growth, the NDC pledged to ensure that there was a university graduate in every household and that every teacher acquires a university degree. To that end, we promised and delivered increased scholarships to universities and other tertiary institutions. Between 2008 and 2012, we made almost 700 hundred scholarships available to young Grenadians.
The NDC promised the construction of a UWI Campus in Grenada. When we demitted office, we were in the advanced stages of ensuring that we deliver on that promise. A site at Hope in St Andrew was identified and much of the preliminary work was done. Sadly, since 2013, this administration has done nothing to advance this project. Is it because this is an NDC initiative? If the NNP is so caring, don’t they want to deliver to the people of the north what SGU has given to the people of the south?
We in the NDC are not surprised by this government’s failure to pursue a robust education policy because keeping as many people in ignorance is part of their survival strategy.
Before 1979, many parents were made to pay school fees for their children to attend secondary school. Many of us know of very bright young people who missed an opportunity for secondary education simply because their parents could not afford the fees, which at the time was only about $30 a year.
In 1979, the PRG abolished all fees for secondary schools and declared education to be a right, not a privilege. From then, all successful Common Entrance candidates were guaranteed entrance to secondary school without the payment of school fees or any other fee. The NDC took the concept of education being a right one step further by introducing the free school books programme in 2008.
Over the years, the NNP has presided over the steady and gradual reintroduction of school fees for our children entering secondary school, while destroying the school books programme.
First for some schools, there was a security fee. A games fee, report book fee, handbook fee and other fees were gradually added. Today among those fees is a ‘school fee’ which is on average between $90 and $100. Presently, we understand that all secondary schools require payment of fees by students, totalling $375 or more a term.
Separate from the school fee, parents are required to pay $25 to get their children into the remnant of the school books programme that the NDC started in 2008. While the fee for the books programme has not changed, many parents report that they could only get 4 or 5 books out of the programme. They must buy the rest.
In these tough economic times, many parents are crying out under the strain of having to pay these hefty fees in addition to having to purchase the majority of school books because of the neglect of the programme by this uncaring administration.
For some families, $375 which includes $100 ‘school fees’ is a small price to pay for educating their children. For many however, $375 can be the difference between their children attending secondary school or not.
If we do not critically address this issue of the high cost of secondary education, we will continue to see a rise in dropout and truancy rates. One teacher reported that in one secondary school in St George’s, the graduating class of 2019 was only about 65% of the students who started Form 1 in 2014. A dropout rate of even 5% should be of concern to all of us, 35% is a crisis.
With the stealthy re-introduction of school fees, the NNP has rejected the globally accepted tenet that education is a right, not a privilege. The NNP has also breached the covenant that we signed in 1991 which declares education to be a human right. People do not pay for rights.
Uncaring Mitchell and his clique have successfully taken us 40 years backwards. Grenadians, where do you want to go, forward or backward?