The government may increase subventions or provide one-time injections to private schools that are struggling to collect fees in the midst of the recent economic crisis spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd said yesterday.
He said the public school system cannot accommodate a large influx of formerly private school students, and $15 million has already been allocated for such subventions in this budget year.
“Listen, we recognize and value and accept that the system cannot operate efficiently without the contribution of the private sector,” Lloyd told reporters outside Cabinet.
“That’s a given. We do not, in the Ministry of Education, have the physical space to absorb 70,000-plus students. Right now we have 46,000 and the rest is in the private sector. So, we naturally need to have the private sector payroll and the government needs to support it.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to gain a foothold in The Bahamas, the halt of the tourism industry, as well as strict lockdown and curfew measures to prevent the spread of the virus, dealt an unprecedented blow to the local economy.
With unemployment estimated to be between 30 percent and 40 percent, it is unclear whether many parents will be able to afford to send their children to private schools in the upcoming academic year.
Lloyd said the government is working to determine the best way to provide financial support to the private system.
“The support is going to take the form, I believe, of at least two applications,” he said.
“One [is] an immediate injection potentially to assist those who have struggled as a result of nonpayment of fees or whatever else and they have to maintain their staff, and possible increases in subvention for those schools who demonstrate that their circumstances require the government’s assistance in that regard.”
He continued, “And that subvention this year is to total some $15 million.”