Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is raising concern that universal access to primary education is now under threat from schools which are charging prohibitive fees.
School fees were abolished at the primary school level more than a century ago.
However, Mr. Holness said he has started to see where primary schools are beginning to charge auxiliary fees, which many parents cannot afford.
"They're not calling them tuition fees, but whether it is ancillary or auxiliary or registration, whatever fee it is, I'm putting the primary schools on notice that... I'm seeing an increased number of requests for assistance to pay for registration packages and there is a sense that the more expensive the school is, the more exclusive it is and the better the performance is going to be," he outlined.
Mr. Holness said many parents are forced to pay the fees because they want their children to get the best education.
However, he said the new direction is depriving some children of education.
"At the primary level, the criteria for enrolment should never be that the parent can afford it. The criteria for enrolment is your proximity to the school," he asserted.
While the Prime Minister sympathised with principals, noting that he understood their effort in trying to improve their schools, he said the success of the school "cannot be at the expense of having every child being enrolled with an equitable chance in a school."
"Education must not be distributed by virtue of the income status of the household," he insisted.
He was speaking Wednesday at a Primary Exit Profile award ceremony at Jamaica House.