…as coalition Govt splits on issueBy Devina SamarooProtesters are reinvigorated with a new sense of morale now that the Government appears to be divided on the issue of the education tax, with the smaller arm of the coalition demonstrating a willingness to join the resistance.A small group of disgruntled stakeholders lined up outside the Ministry of the Presidency on Wednesday in an effort to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with Government’s move to reject their concerns.Some children in the protest line taking a stand against VAT on private educationThe Alliance For Change (AFC), which has a minority of senior Ministers in the coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)/AFC Administration, has signalled its intention to challenge a Cabinet decision to maintain the 14 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on private school fees.Stakeholders on Wednesday engaged an AFC delegation on the issue of VAT on private education, where the party’s General Secretary, Marlon Williams pledged support and encouraged them to continue their opposition.Guyana Times was informed that some concerned individuals would be meeting with the nine AFC Government Ministers on Monday at the party’s headquarters to further discuss the best strategies to be employed to reverse this hated aspect of the new tax regime.AFC Leader Raphael Trotman recently indicated that he would push for an earlier review of the VAT on private education in light of the continued concerns being raised by stakeholders.From all indications, the key players in the Government seemed to be divided on its stance regarding this issue, and stakeholders are wasting no time in capitalising on the opportunity.2018Cabinet recently pronounced that the 14 per cent VAT on private education would stay, but the policy would be reviewed for the 2018 National Budget.Protesters argued that such assurance is of no comfort to them.“What will happen to the parents who can’t afford it currently? Would they have to take their children out of the private school? And then when Cabinet reviews it for 2018 and drop the VAT, would the parents then have to take back their children to private schools? That doesn’t seem like a workable decision,” stated Chetram Ramdial.Jonathan Yearwood, a business student at a private institution, said he may have to drop out of school and give up his aspirations until Government decides to review the tax.“If they say that they are not going to remove it until 2018, I may have to drop out of school by then. Children may have to drop out of school by then. It does not help us for them to review for 2018. We need immediate action. We need action now. While they are waiting to review for 2018, people will be punishing,” he stated.PressureAmid criticisms that the AFC is just playing politics, protesters are keen on holding the few Government Ministers to their word.“What we now have to do is put the AFC to the test. We now have to put pressure on individual Ministers within the AFC, who can now bring pressure to bear on the Cabinet,” Yearwood stated, hoping that the outcome would be favourable.Opposition forces have argued that the AFC, as part of the coalition Administration, was part and parcel of the decision to initially impose the tax and subsequently voted for it to stay.Trotman, however, had asserted that the situation was akin to sewing: whereby it is simple to pull a threaded needle through a cloth, but b quite difficult to reverse the action.One of Government’s main concerns regarding the calls to remove the education tax relates to the impact it will have on its projected revenue structure.But, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo explained that the tax could be removed without significantly harming the revenue framework by simply cutting spending in unnecessary areas like ministerial salary increases and the $12.5 million monthly rental of the Sussex Street drug bond.DiscriminationSome protesters also believe Government is blatantly discriminating against persons who opt to send their children to private schools.“I don’t think the (Government) should be discriminating against parents just because we sacrifice to send our kids to private schools. Private schools provide an environment where kids are safe. For example, look at that little 10-year-old girl who died because she was kicked to the stomach; that happened in the public school system. The Government, instead of applauding or praising or trying to do similar to what the private schools are doing, is now more or less trying to force parents to send their kids to public schools,” expressed a mother of four.Many stakeholders have also questioned whether the public education system is prepared to absorb all the students who will now have to abandon private schools because of the imposed tax.Former President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), Dr Melissa Ifill had argued that private schools were generally viewed as assets by Governments across the Region and the world, as they removed a burden from the State in the provision of education.Poor turnoutAlthough the turnout was poor, protesters were not discouraged as they strongly believe their united voices are powerful.They explained that persons are otherwise occupied with the hassles of life and may not always make it to participate in the protest actions.Some protesters also believe that Public Sector workers, who are also affected by the imposition of the education tax, are fearful of victimisation if they stand in the protest lines.Despite the poor turnout, the organisers are committed to continuing their resistance.According to them, it is not about the number of persons who show up but the magnitude of the problem, which has far-reaching implications on the socio-economic landscape of the country.