REHABILITATION works at nursery, primary and secondary schools across the country are moving apace and are on schedule to be completed before commencement of the 2018/2019 Academic Year, Education Minister Nicolette Henry has said.
The education minister gave that assurance on Saturday shortly after assessing ongoing works at three secondary schools – Tucville Secondary, Cummings Lodge Secondary, and the St Joseph High Schools – in Region Four. Additionally, Minister Henry also visited the Special Education Needs Diagnostic and Assimilation Centre located in the compound of the Cyril Potter College of Education. That institution is also scheduled to open in September with the walkway and driveway almost completed. She was accompanied by the Education Ministry’s Special Projects Officer, Ron Eastman, an engineer by profession.
At the St Joseph High School, on Woolford Avenue, Minister Henry expressed satisfaction with the remedial works done so far at the schools visited.
“I am pleased with what I have seen so far, as it relates to both the progress and the quality of work that is being done to ensure that the school environment is ready for our students when they return to school on September 3, 2018,” she told the Guyana Chronicle.
Minister Henry, in alluding to the Cummings Lodge Secondary School, noted that an old building located in the compound of the school is currently being rehabilitated to accommodate Fifth Form students.
“Prior to this new school year, those students would have been housed in the other part of the building, so that’s really an expansion through rehabilitation work,” she explained.
Minister Henry said the Education Ministry is continuously assessing the readiness of schools for the new school year, noting that senior education officers and regional education officers are on the ground visiting schools throughout the country.
“I know for sure in Region Five and Region Six, I have gotten reports that suggest that their work is also on stream and in keeping with the time lines,” she told this newspaper.
Eastman explained that in the education sector, annual repairs and maintenance to schools and educational facilities are executed throughout the year. Citing the Tucville Secondary School as an example, he said rehabilitation works are approximately 80-90 per cent completed.
SMALL PROJECTS COMPLETED
The rehabilitation works on school buildings, dormitories and other facilities are also moving apace, and many of the small capital projects have already been completed, according to Eastman.
“Based on my site visits, for the capital side, we are more than 85 per cent completed; there are some enormous projects that are to commence, which took up most of our budget for this year, so those projects are now coming on stream but the other smaller projects, like IT labs, science labs, extension of buildings, those are all completed and ready for September,” the engineer explained.
The reconstruction of St Roses High School, the construction of a Mathematics and Science building at the University of Guyana, the building of a dormitory at the Linden Technical Institute (LTI) and major repairs to the Wismar/Christianburg Secondary School are some of the major projects that will continue to the end of 2018, and more than likely roll over to 2019.
In 2018, the Education Ministry received a budgetary allocation of $19.9B from which approximately $1.4B is being used to facilitate these infrastructural projects, according to Eastman.
Meanwhile, on the issue of teachers’ impending strike action, Minister Henry said the government will ensure that as far as possible, schools would be in session.
On Tuesday, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) is expected to attend a meeting at the Department of Labour to begin the conciliation stage in the collective bargaining process, after negotiations with the Education Ministry reached a deadlock. If there is no breakthrough before the start of school, Minister Henry assured that alternative systems will be put in place.
“So they are many things that may have to kick in at the level of the ministry, but of course, it is all based on numbers and it might be premature at this point in time to articulate exactly what would be done in each school, because we have to wait and see the numbers.
“But I want to say that given the numbers, if they are not adequate, then certainly we would have to enforce those numbers with perhaps teachers who are in training in the first instance. Certainly, the PTAs are also a part and a key stakeholder and also administrators at the Ministry of Education, we also have the coordinators and the monitors,” Minister Henry explained, while emphasising that there are several avenues that can be explored to cushion the impact if the teachers down tools.
However, she said this may not be necessary.
“From my discussions here this morning and from my discussions prior to this morning, it is my understanding that at this point in time all of the heads and the deputies that I have spoken to would have indicated that at this point in time there is no need for reinforcement.”
The ministry is monitoring the situation.