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Extra lessons industry

By Franklin Johnston

NOWHERE in Caricom are extra lessons as developed as Jamaica, yet Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago get better results in exams. Our parents spend more and get less. There is a massive market in extras because those who recommend them sell them, as most parents want the best for kids and because we are poor.

I was dilating on the evils of scrap metal robbers at a wake when I was blindsided by a lady friend: "What about your extra lessons schemes?" she said. "You suspend scrap metal, but why not the extra lessons industry to level the playing field between rich and poor and save me money?" she continued. I ignored her.

My nemesis continued: "Extra lessons is an industry which crept upon us and now rakes in millions. Tax it, regulate it or stop it!" She would not be ignored. Why can't I be off duty? Does a garbage man have to clean the trash when he is at a party having fun? Why me? This lady was a terrier. I gave in.

Extra lessons is a multi-million dollar industry and its finest expressions are found in the Jamaica Observer. For the price of a newspaper you get affordable extras to help with exams. There are high-priced classes in schools, private homes and the twisted metal sign in town offering "hairdressing, GSAT, CSEC and CAPE lessons upstairs, fully guaranteed" is visible. Education is the best investment. It is the only way to achieve equity for large numbers of people. A hundred thousand poor people can get an education simultaneously at no detriment to each other. Only one in a hundred thousand DJs or sportsmen will make it in "dog eat dog" rivalry. Education is an upward leveller. Many read a degree, graduate, take a job, migrate, start a business, live well; the chance of 50 youth making life by "cutting a tune", selling "high grade" or running fast is remote. Hundreds of us are "first in the family to go to high school and get a degree" persons. I recommend education highly and Cabinet must invest more. When the chips are down the best investment is education!

I was badgered by this mother hen and I now know "extras" cost her about $250,000 per year — gas included. She feels like a victim of "neo-capitalist professional extortion parading as social service". The extra lessons industry is fuelled by poverty, insecurity and is a major threat to social justice, access and equity.

Edwin Allen and Florizel Glasspole fought to open quality education to the poor. Extra lessons could close it. The JTC Bill must ensure that the channels are kept open. We must support the poor so that they can stay the course and read degrees in areas labour market forecasts indicate — not the degree they "like," or they will remain liabilities on the state with degrees. The disadvantaged have one shot, so choose your course well or you may die with a degree, jobless and poorer than your parents.

Do we ban extras? Insist that each child attends school full 190 days and every teacher gives full 190 days the taxpayer pays for? This lady has a list of missed days and would claim days without teaching from her taxes. She says every civil servant should be given the privilege teachers get and charge the public a fee for dealing with their case outside of work hours. Stands to reason. She said some kid gave hers flu so she missed three days' work. "Who pays me for that?" Don't mess with mother hen's chicks. Stay conscious, my friend!

Courtesy Jamaica Observer

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