–Education Minister says, laments coalition administration’s shortcomings in construction, expansion of schools during its tenure
–commits to addressing inherited challenges, delivering universal secondary education by next year
MORE primary school pupils are being retained by the secondary education system as a result of effective policies being implemented by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, Education Minister Priya Manickchand said in a recent post on her official Facebook page.
This outcome, though positive, presents a challenge to the physical capacity of educational facilities across Guyana, especially because of the former A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change’s (APNU+AFC)’s shortcomings in the construction and expansion of schools during its time in office.
“Space at Secondary schools have become a real issue. This is a good thing as it speaks to policies that result in retention of more students. [But] the fact that the Good Hope Secondary, Yarrowkabra Secondary and St Rose’s High, were never finished for five long years, that no other secondary schools were built and that St George’s High, North Ruimveldt and North West Secondary were burnt to the ground have not been helpful,” Minister Manickchand said.
To address the inherited challenges and further advance the education sector, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, in just over two years, invested billions of Guyana dollars into various projects and programmes.
For this year alone, over $32.2 billion has already been spent on initiatives to advance development in the sector. The government in its 2022 budget, allocated some $74.4 billion to further enhance the education system.
One of the many projects that had a significant impact on the education system is the education cash grant initiative.
The “Because We Care” project which started in 2014 under the then PPP/C Government, saw parents receiving cash grants of $10,000 per child in the public school system.
However, when the APNU+AFC assumed office in 2015, the party discontinued the grant. When the PPP/C returned to government in 2020, they upheld their promise to restore the grant and increased it.
As it is now, the grant stands at $30,000 and is available to learners in both the public and private school systems.
“… the Because We Care cash grant has resulted in far more children turning out to school and taking the primary exit NGSA thereby needing places at a secondary school. This year 2,000 more children sat that exam than last year. And 2,000 more children need seats in secondary school than last year. A happy consequence,” Minister Manickchand said.
Addressing some of the direct steps being taken to curb the situation, the minister said: “We are in the process of rebuilding those schools burnt, extending existing schools such as East Ruimveldt and St Winifred’s and building at least two brand new secondary schools in Georgetown, two in Region Three, one in Region Seven and one at Karasabai.
“Additionally, Queen’s College and The Bishop’s High are being extended currently and St. Stanislaus and St. Joseph’s are slated for expansion next year, making it possible to take in the most children ever in the history of our country at the National “top” Schools. We have begun to offer CAPE in regions which never enjoyed this privilege before such as Regions Two and Three.”
In the immediate term, to accommodate additional learners, the government had to explore the options of opening more primary tops, establishing annexes of secondary schools and engaging in rotations/double sessions.
“The government rejected, out of hand, the establishment of any new primary top – which is a primary school accommodating secondary students. Where there was space, the PTA [Parent-Teacher Association] at each school, in organised consultation meetings, was given an option of rotation or tents with air conditioning units installed,” Minister Manickchand said.
Commenting on the government’s decision to erect air-conditioned tents at two schools, the Opposition said that there was no reason why buildings could not have been rented and utilised.
Minister Manickchand, though not responding directly to those remarks, said: “Where you see tents, that was the choice of said PTA. Where there was no space for the erection of tents, we had no choice but to do rotations. In some cases, we have rented buildings.”
In a more recent post on Facebook page, she went on to say: “Parents at two… yes two- not some. Not several. Not many. Two …. schools chose air-conditioned tents instead of rotation and shift systems. And APNU+AFC fully well knows that. But they plan to lie to you. Here’s the thing: people lie to others who they believe are stupid and will believe the lies. Have you ever given them reason to think you will believe their lies? Stay woke friends.”
Accepting the unavoidable challenges and gaps in the system, Minister Manickchand said: “By next year, at this time, we will be in a far better position to fulfil our promise of universal secondary education. I’m eagerly looking forward to that time in our country’s life. Join us as we journey there!”
Schools across Guyana reopened fully for face-to-face learning on April 25, 2022, for the first time since COVID-19 was detected locally in March 2020.
To deal with the delivery of education and promote recovery from the significant time lost owing to the pandemic as the systems return to normal, the ministry implemented several systems that catered to the needs of the students which included education packages and even consolidated curricula.