EDUCATION is a must. It is quite correctly recognised as one of the major building blocks of development. In this regard, Guyana is like any other serious country which has prioritised education, realising that it is truly the only avenue for poverty reduction, health amelioration, and gender equality promotion. With these three imperatives, there is bound to be a movement toward peace and stability.
Since 1992, Guyana has placed education as one of its main priorities. The Ministry of Education has been assiduously working to ensure that resources are made available and that systems are implemented for the revamping, overhauling, modernization and maintenance of this all-important sector.
Thus far, there have been steadily-increasing budgetary allocations as tokens of commitment to nation building. Guyana has already been ranked one of the highest developing countries in the category of Education Index of the United Nations Human Development Report. Equitable access to free education from nursery through secondary is a major reason for Guyana’s estimated literacy rate of 96 per cent. This is one of the highest in the western hemisphere. One must note that had it not been for the substantial monetary input, this outcome would not have been realised.
Thus far, the education sector is continuing to receive the largest chunk of the National Budget. This year’s allocation is $24.3B, representing an increase of $2.5B more than the 2010 allocation. This increase has been steadily improving, too. Measured not numerically alone (taking inflation into account), but via a percentile number, the fact of the importance of education becomes quite graphic. In 1992, about 0.03 went into education. Today, this percentile measurement has mounted to 0.15. This is five times more. But money is not all. There is also a plan.
One can think of the teachers’ training that is taking place. Teachers actually mould a nation. It is imperative that Guyana’s children receive the best possible education. In this vein, a US$4.2M Guyana Improvement Teacher Education Project was initiated. $200M was budgeted in 2011 towards this programme that seeks to improve quality and efficiency of teacher education. A further $919M has also been budgeted for teacher training, with the aim of achieving the medium-term target of 70 per cent trained teachers by 2013. Annually, over 500 teachers are being trained at the Government’s expense at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE).
While all of this is going on, there is a parallel programme that is in operation. Deemed the Education Strategic Plan 2008- 2013, the fourth in a series of education plans, this programme aims to identify priority policies and strategies that the education system must pursue in order to significantly improve the quality of its output.
Among the priority areas are : Quality Education; Universal Secondary Education; Teacher Education; Technical and Vocational Education; Inclusive Education; School Health, Nutrition, HIV/AIDS; Developing the managerial capacity of the sector; and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). This final phase is really for a five-year period, and has been buttressed with a US$20.5M Implementation Fund secured from international donors.
In prioritising education the way it has so far, Guyana is really starting to turn around. The money was allocated and a plan was developed, and is being followed. However, like so many other nations, all of this invested time and money can go to waste if a nation’s children are neglected. In this particular facet, Guyana scores good yet again.
Currently, truancy campaigns form an integral part of the education drive. There is an expanded outreach programme and many children and parents have been nabbed already. Successes have been recorded in the execution of several truancy raids conducted by the Education Ministry’s Schools Welfare Department. These efforts have resulted in the re-integration of hundreds of children into the school system.
A part of the agenda is conducting more community and home visits. This is helping to educate citizens on the importance of education, and the negative consequences of not sending children to school. Since implementation of the programme, a higher level of alertness has been noticed. Already, parents are receiving admonitory letters and they, too, will be monitored by the regions welfare officers. Student councils and PTAs are also being emphasised in the secondary schools. This allows a healthy network to be available to help students in their crisis situations.
So, money allowing for a great programme to be followed, and with a campaign to make sure that nothing goes in vain, Guyana is truly on the right path of nation-building.