What you need to know about SKOA fees for the academic school-year 2023-24

SKOA, the organization running 46 Catholic schools in Kindergarten, Elementary and Middle School streams announced it was raising school fees for the coming year, and naturally, you had to cancel the balance left over from previous years, in order to enroll your children again. While school fees saw an increase, air conditioning fees, aircogelt, remained the same.

Kindergarten fees are now Awg 250 + 150

Elementary Awg 275 + 150

Middle School Awg 350 + 150

Very reasonable, you say, wow, that actually spells free education, but many parents here have problems meeting their financial obligations, and whenever SKOA announces an increase, public outcry and outrage erupt.

The public in Aruba has been spoiled over the years, with subsidized education, to the point that it feels the above charges are exaggerated, and they are totally convinced GOA should foot the entire bill.

The government indeed pays, but not enough. SKOA schools are supported, but not as much as the Public Schools who have everything paid for including utilities and salaries, yet they still collect school fees and aircogelt —  they are double dippers.

(Some of the SKOA schools report their geography books are from 2006, and the materials for the Economy class, out of print.)

Remember, the country is burdened by debt, and cannot afford great investments in education, thus parents must participate in the form of the school fees.

Which is right. Parents should sacrifice for their children’s education and not leave it to GOA. They have to realize that when they look at a baby, they look at the very least, at Awg 130.000 expenditure.

Let’s talk about air-conditioning fees, the aircogeld: The amount parents have to pay is 2023-24, stayed the same. Each school is responsible for its own air conditioners, sometimes up to 50 units, paying for service, maintenance and replacement. My friends report much of aircogelt from the academic year 2022-23 is still on the street and parents have great difficulty meeting the five-installment program, at Awg 30 a month, over 5 months.

That air conditioning electric bill eats up to 30% of the school’s budget. And there is zero GOA money allocated to maintenance. Most schools managed to install cooling by fundraising, getting grants, finding sponsors.

School Fees: These are used to supplement the income of the janitorial staff, about 100 people across the network, who keep the ancient facilities up and running. The hot potato issue of the janitorial staffers was recently quasi-settled, GOA pays them minimum wages and the schools supplement some, to make up for their lost benefits. Note to self: Schools must be cleaned, and the janitors work hard.

School fees must also cover compulsory insurance of students and staffers, 800 in total, on their way to school, at school, and going home after school, and that is a BIG bill, paid by school fees.

Overall, my friends report SKOA runs a tight ship, expenses are controlled and while public schools are top-heavy, SKOA is lean, and more efficient.

With the money collected, the schools also set aside a contingency fund, prepared to help parents who report financial difficulties. Those in need may also solicit financial aid from local not-for-profit organizations and from the school via a social worker. And while the rule, no pay, no play is a SKOA guideline, many schools work with parents, aiming to structure payments and resolve debts, while keeping the kids in attendance.

My friends conclude that having kids is expensive, and parents here must be taught the obvious, that they are cute as babies, but a financial burden as they grow up.

Incidentally, school also keep a stock of laptops, calculators, and backup school supplies for forgetful students, and that’s basically how school fees are spent.

 

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March 01, 2023
Rona Coster