World Bank officials praise progress of SSRP
Fire catastrophe will delay programme by only one month

by Terrence Esseboom
Guyana Chronicle
May 7, 1999

THE World Bank has lavished praise on the Secondary Schools Reform Project (SSRP) venture for its remarkable accomplishments and its impact on other areas of the learning system.

Bank representative Mr Hideki Mori, Operations Officer, Human Development Department, Latin America and Caribbean Region, in an exclusive interview with the Chronicle last week, had noted " a very subtle way it is creating a lot of impact...(to the point that) the Guyana Education Access Project (GEAP) scheme (funded by the British administration) is using a lot of the design features of the SSRP".

Mori and Social Anthropologist Mr Mario Marcone leave Guyana today after a 12-day stay during which time they evaluated various aspects of the SSRP programme, at the Secretariat's 68 Brickdam, Georgetown office. This office was among departments destroyed by fire last Sunday, two days after the interview was done.

However, education officials say that the destruction of the SSRP Secretariat will delay the programme only by one month.

The SSRP is a US$19.3M five year initiative which commenced in 1996.

Director of SSRP, Dr Kenneth Hunte, gladdened by the bank's assessment, credited the outstanding ratings of the initiative he heads to "greater team effort" among officials of the programme's secretariat, the Ministry of Finance, the Central Tender Board (CTB), and other key agencies.

Mori said openness is one of its strongest features of the secondary scheme, and " is very important that SSRP maintains its transparency".

He acknowledged however, that this openness which permits unrestricted access to officials by all stakeholders, especially the media and parents, can be challenging for SSRP officials.

Nevertheless, this will redound to the benefit of officials and the initiative.

"...sometimes it creates problems because it can generate criticisms...but in the long run, this approach (will prove) correct because it builds up credibility," Mori explained.

During the interview, he said that project executives, including Hunte, Administrator Mr Walter Alexander and Media Coordinator Mr Geoffrey Smith, are very "up front...and do make excuses" when benchmarks set by the financial agency are not attained.

"...this quite is quite noble when compared with lots of projects in other places" backed by the bank, he said.

The two-member World Bank had set 16 "tough standards and difficult targets" for the SSRP to accomplish by the end of last month.

The SSRP managed to complete on schedule 13 of the outlines, and Hunte predicted yesterday that "many more areas in the nation will be influenced by the reform".

The five-year programme commenced in 1996 with 12 schools selected as pilots for the revolutionary learning initiative.

The success of the scheme has attracted some 30 additional institutions "because SSRP is ahead in some aspects of its arrangement," Hunte disclosed yesterday.

There were praises from the World Bank representative too, for the recent move by the Education Ministry to upgrade Community High Schools (CHS) to secondary institutions for achieving equity of access to learning at that level.

As a consequence, Uitvlugt, L'Aventure and Tucville primaries and Dolphin, Campbellville, Belladrum, Fort Wellington, Vryman's Erven, Manchester and Anna Regina Community Highs (CHS) would also be transformed and the last would be renamed Cotton Field Secondary.

It means that those changes would provide an extra 1,100 to 1,200 secondary places from September this year.

Under the scheme, all the schools will be rehabilitated and expanded, where necessary by year end, to reflect their new standing.

They will also be provided with the appropriate equipment, such as science laboratories and textbooks for the fresh intakes.

The SSRP is modelled on its Jamaican forerunner, Reform of Secondary Education (ROSE), which, Mori explained, is the first comprehensive amelioration effort to enhance secondary learning in the Caribbean Region.

The ROSE scheme is also funded by the World Bank.

In many ways, the level of performance between these two initiatives are "comparable" Mori said, notwithstanding the fact that the Guyana plan is lesser known throughout the Caribbean.

Mori was disappointed that Guyana bypassed a valuable opportunity to showcase SSRP at a recent Caribbean Education Conference in Trinidad and Tobago, when no Secretariat executive participated.

"...none of the SSRP staff participated...but it would have been very interesting...and an opportunity for Guyana to show its level of accomplishment to the rest of the Caribbean."

Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth, Chief Education Officer, Mr Ed Caesar and Chief Planning Officer Mrs Evelyn Hamilton, who represented this country, did an "excellent job" promoting the arrangement, Mori stated.

"...but again when it comes to the `nitty gritty' of the project itself... the project Directors of ROSE would have been very impressed if somebody from this (SSRP) office had been there to explain what is going on," Mori told the Chronicle.

He said Caribbean educators are also impressed with the proficiency of the local learning programme.

"I think that the SSRP project is doing very well," Mori said.

The next phase of the SSRP scheme

CABINET has approved 11 contractors to bid for the US$4.5M contract to commence rehabilitation on the 12 SSRP pilot schools from September.

Director Dr Kenneth Hunte told the Chronicle yesterday that most of those pre-qualified are local builders who will repair Campbellville Community High (CHS), Tucville Primary, Dolphin CHS, L'Aventure Primary, Uitvlugt Primary and Anna Regina CHS.

Other institutions to be done over are Mackenzie High, Belladrum CHS, Fort Wellington CHS, Annandale Secondary, Manchester CHS and Vryman's Erven.

Repairs will commence simultaneously on the 12 edifices and should be completed in 12 months, Hunte explained.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance has put emergency tendering procedures in place to accelerate procurement of furniture and equipment for the SSRP Secretariat temporarily housed at the Battery Road, Kingston, Georgetown headquarters of the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) after Sunday's fire.

The Ministry has also donated some furniture to the SSRP in the wake of the fire which left in its wake destruction estimated at G$20M, officials said yesterday at NCERD during a meeting with reporters.