KINGSTON, Jamaica: Education Minister Andrew Holness says parents who fail to send their children to school on a regular basis could face strict penalties under the Education Act and the Child Care and Protection Act.
Holness said the current 80 per cent school attendance rate was unacceptable and he is considering having certain areas declared compulsory attendance zones, under the Education Act. In addition, he strongly emphasized that poverty would not be considered a valid excuse for absenteeism.
“There are parents who are not sending their children to school regularly. I want to (say) to those parents, if the difficulty is an economic one, if your household does not have the economic resources to send the children to school on a regular basis that, in itself, is not an excuse. I certainly do not accept it as an excuse,” said Holness.
The education minister said those who face economic challenges can reach out to the various relevant agencies set up to provide financial assistance to the needy – such as the Program for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) – as well as their political representatives, school principals, guidance counselors or ministers of religion.
“I could only forgive you if you tried and the system did not respond. That is your only excuse, but if you did not try and your children are not in school, then I find you guilty,” said Holness.
He said records have shown that there are students in the system who are registered but only attend on certain days, while there are those who do not attend school at all.
“That’s a significant loss of contact time in education. This is not just a rural phenomenon. We notice that this is significant in urban, inner city areas,” said Holness.
However, he did acknowledge that in some inner city areas, the complaint of non attendance is often linked to the level of violence in the community.