Opposition Leader Godwin Friday says the hardship that some families are facing to pay for their children’s examination fees, shows the importance of his party’s proposal that the government foots this cost.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) has said that it would pay for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) fees for all students in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“As you know, we have this situation that people are going back to school, they have gone back to school, they have had the challenges to meet. But the challenge that they have now, they haven’t overcome yet, is the one for the CXC subjects that they have to write,” Friday said on his party’s daytime show on NICE Radio.
The opposition leader noted that when school reopened in September, he said that students were going to have difficulty in meeting basic needs, including transportation costs, food, uniforms and books that were not supplied on the Book Loan Scheme.
“Those are the normal things,” Friday said. “They also knew then that they had to meet the challenge of the CXC subjects but that was delayed a little bit further down, but it’s now coming up.”
He said that last week and this week, people were about Kingstown “trying to get assistance from various people who might help them to be able to find the money to register their children for the subjects that they have been approved by their teachers to write.
“And we said in in the New Democratic Party, that as part of your education, where the government has said we have universal access to secondary education, that as a culmination of that process, that you would have the state, the government, guarantee those persons after they’ve worked so hard, and they have survived the reach to form 5 and are ready to write their subjects that you would go seamlessly into writing those subjects that are approved by a teachers for you to write,” the opposition leader said.
“But instead of that, they got to the end and now they say, ‘Okay, the subject thing, you’re on your own, find your money where you can.”
The opposition leader said some families have to come up with the EC$500 to pay the exam fees.
“And it’s not easy, given the difficult situation that people are in with no jobs, high cost of living, VINLEC bills rising every day, water bill.
“They have to choose between paying the arrears for VINLEC and paying the subjects for the children. And that is a very difficult, and impossible in some cases, choice to put parents in that position.”
Friday said that education and access to education is “not just a matter of just opening doors. You have to make it so that people have a chance to do well, while they’re going through their programmes in secondary school.
“But when they get to the end of it, and they have to write their subjects now, don’t just leave them on their own.”
He said that the NDP has promised to pay these exam fees, adding, “the government is obliged to pay for those subjects”.
The opposition leader said that no child who is capable of writing the subjects that they have selected, should be deprived because they do not have the money to pay for them.
He said a student’s family should not have to borrow or beg to pay these fees.
“And I want to reiterate again, that we here in the Democratic Party, in government, that we will pay for those subjects…
“That is something that we are going to change in government,” he said, adding that the government does not like to take advice.
“… they just basically pretend that they’re not hearing and then by some back door route, they try to implement what we’ve been suggesting. But in this case, it’s very straightforward. You can’t hide the fact that government should pay for it.”
He said that currently, people go to Social Services to try and get a voucher to help to pay for these subjects.
“… in fact, this is something that they should just declare as a policy and say, as part of your education, as part of the completion of secondary school, when you qualify to write these subjects for CSEC, the government will make sure that you are registered, and all you have to worry about … [is] to write the subjects and make [your] parents proud…”