THE audits of hinterland schools have revealed that there is a shortage of teachers there, and the methods used to impart knowledge are outmoded. Those factors have contributed to a “real” ‘knowledge gap’ between hinterland students and those from the coastland, Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine has revealed.
He has vowed to place more emphasis on the delivery of education in the hinterland regions, given the circumstances the schools are faced with on a daily basis.
The schools, he said, are at a “setback” because of the foregoing disadvantages, and these hinder the performance of students in those regions.
Dr. Roopnaraine aims to rectify these disadvantages by staffing hinterland schools with qualified and dedicated teachers. What has also to be addressed is the refusal of teachers to take up appointments in hinterland regions, given that most villages have neither electricity nor Internet access.
This newspaper has been made aware that most teachers in hinterland regions, especially in Region 8 (Potaro/Siparuni), have to travel for miles to access an Internet cafe in order to gather teaching materials (information) to deliver to the students on the following day.
Moreover, the Internet cafés are costly to use, and most teachers find it difficult to keep up with the expense.
The multi-year agreement of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) with the Government of Guyana will soon come to an end; and GTU President, Mark Lyte, has said the GTU will be negotiating with the new Government for a 150% increase in station and hardlying allowances, so that teachers from the hinterland can move freely to the coastland, and vice versa.
Asked if the Ministry of Education will pursue this, Dr. Roopnaraine said, “We will do what we have to do” so as to address the issues faced in these regions.
The audits conducted on hinterland schools will soon feed into the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) established by the Ministry of Education, and will provide directives on how to address the difficulties faced by those schools. The CoI involves teachers, education officials, citizens from across the country, and experts in various fields.
The Government has tasked itself with ensuring that the education system does not perpetuate inequalities by differential levels of access to certain groups, based on their geographical locations and ability to take advantage of educational opportunities.
This was outlined in the 2015 Fiscal budget presentation by Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who said Government will bridge the “divides” that exist between hinterland and coastland; between the semi-literate mass and the educated few.
To achieve this, Jordan said, Government, under the relevant sectors, will be adopting an approach that is grounded in systems-based reforms and evidence-based policy making.
Since assuming office, Government has been taking measures to sustain the education sector; which, according to the audits, is currently “on life support”.
It has been confirmed that most of the 10,000 computers that are underway from China will be distributed to teachers, especially those teachers who would have just concluded their training at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE).
Therefore, there will be a One Laptop Per Teacher (OLPT) programme to take the place of the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) programme, which Jordan described as a “corrupted” programme of the past regime.
Government has allocated $33B to the education sector, 14.9 percent of the national budget; and has indicated its commitment towards enhancing budgetary transparency for the sector in the near future.