Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has defended the decision of his ruling New National Party (NNP) government to scrap the free school books programme that was initiated as a social programme by the former National Democratic Congress NDC) administration.
Addressing a Town Hall Meeting of Grenadian Nationals in Toronto, Canada last week Friday, Dr. Mitchell said the programme was “nice” from a philosophical point of view but was too costly.
“I remember when the (NDC) Government announced it, I said… and I was in opposition, I said I have no problem with the philosophy, but that is when you have money,” he told the gathering.
Dr. Mitchell contended that it is fundamentally wrong to give everybody free books.
He noted that the monies could be used otherwise since there are many parents in Grenada who cannot buy uniform for their children to attend school, as well as provide food for their children to go to school, and cannot pay the transport to take them to school.
“You are not giving them a cent, but you’re taking money and give somebody like my son free books. I think it is unconscionable, and I cannot support it,” he said.
Former Education Minister, Senator Franka Bernadine, under whose watch the free school books programme was being administered continues to defend the value of the programme.
Sen. Bernadine told a recent political meeting of the NDC that Congress solved the problem five years ago of parents having to dig dip into their pockets to find money to purchase books for their children to go to school.
Congress’ philosophy of providing free school books was to ensure that no child should be excluded from accessing “free education” on the basis that his parents cannot afford to purchase the books.