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By Carlena Knight

Anxiety among parents of students at some local private schools who were told that fees are due and payable for the third term has been the topic of public discussion – but the Minister of Education said his ministry has no authority to intervene.

Michael Browne, while speaking on Observer AM earlier this week, explained that the ministry has no legal grounds to interfere in the matter because it is a private contractual agreement between parents and the educational institutions.

“In terms of the legality of the contract, it’s a contractual relationship between parents and private schools. The ministry would have no legal or other grounds in that forum. Matters of tuition have always been a matter of a private contractual relationship between parents and the private schools.”

However, he disclosed that he has spoken with a number of private schools and advised them to have open dialogue with both their staff and the parents about their financial situation.

“I’ve had feedback from private schools about the unfairness of some parents not paying school fees. I’ve also had feedback from parents about the unfairness of private schools requesting fees.

“When we met with the private schools primarily — because I can’t direct on tuitional matters because it’s not within my place — what I did encourage is that they use this opportunity to be reasonable with persons [and] come up with payment plans, have a conversation with parents and with your teachers about the very real financial situation that you’re facing,” he said.

Browne, a former teacher, also encouraged parents to be open to discussions with the schools. He believes this is an opportune moment for both parties to take advantage of the opportunity to build stronger bonds going forward.

“One of the things to do is to have that conversation on matters of tuition. First, you have a dialogue with the administration of the school. If you’re not satisfied with what’s taking place, have a dialogue with the school board. What many parents in the private schools are failing to realise is that ‘yes, I pay my tuition and send my child to school’, but they were never really actively involved as a parent in terms of the administration of the school.

“I think this is an opportunity for both private schools and parents asking them to sit down … have an honest conversation about finances and work out a greater involvement of both aspects going forward,” Minister Browne said.

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