School reform scheme may help stem urban/rural drift
-- Dr Kenneth Hunte

by Terrence Esseboom
Guyana Chronicle
May 24, 1999

DIRECTOR of the Secondary Schools Reform Project (SSRP) Dr Kenneth Hunte said the new scheme will discourage rural/urban migration among learners in their quest for quality education.

"There will be no need to come to Georgetown (because schools here) will not be offering anything better," than their rural counterparts, Hunte explained.

In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle late last week, Hunte pointed out that through the programme, children who were once labelled as failures are now on a level playing field in secondary learning.

"...given the opportunity to succeed, (students of Community High School [CHS] and others in the top Primary schools whom the initiative targets) are rising to the challenge," Hunte noted.

The Anna Regina CHS, to be renamed Cotton Field Secondary School from September, has produced its own magazine `Glimpses of A.R.C.H.S' a half-yearly publication.

Hunte sees the publication as the beginning of a major breakthrough for education in Region Two, (Pomeroon/Supenaam).

Because secondary education will be the norm, the former CHSs in Region Ten, the Mackenzie High School is tipped to be among the premier sixth form schools.

"SSRP is a product of the Guyanese nation, we are doing some things that are not done anywhere in the Caribbean," the Director explained.

The local venture was introduced after the Reform Of Secondary Education (ROSE) scheme of Jamaica, but has nevertheless "moved ahead of ROSE in terms of implementation," Hunte stated.

World Bank representative Mr Hideki Mori, Operations Officer, Human Development Department, Latin America and Caribbean Region lavished praises on the SSRP for its remarkable accomplishments and its impact on other areas of the learning system.

While here on a recent visit, Mori noted that in a very subtle way SSRP 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".

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

Under the SSRP scheme, a number of Community High Schools will be upgraded to secondary institutions to achieve equity of access to learning at that level.

As a consequence, Uitvlugt, L'Aventure and Tucville primary schools and Dolphin, Campbellville, Belladrum, Fort Wellington, Vryman's Erven, Manchester and Anna Regina Community High Schools will also be transformed and the last would be renamed the Cotton Field Secondary School.

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

The schools will be rehabilitated and expanded from September to reflect their new standing, Hunte reiterated.

The SSRP Secretariat is pushing for a "new breed of secondary schools," the SSRP official said.

Cabinet has approved 11 contractors to bid for the US$4.5M contract to commence rehabilitation on the 12 SSRP pilot schools from the new academic year.

Campbellville Community High, Tucville Primary, Dolphin CHS, L'Aventure Primary, Uitvlugt Primary and Anna Regina CHS will be modernised as part of the effort.

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

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

The new-look institutions will also be provided with the appropriate equipment, such as science laboratories and textbooks for the fresh intakes.

Hunte reported that the SSRP scheme is helping the Government focus on the wider issues of transparency and publication of examination results

"We are sending a message that if you are going to develop into the 21st century you must be able to say to your people this is how we are using the nation's funds."

He said publicising the test results of schools following the SSRP curriculum enables parents and other stakeholders to trace the strides in the quest and to appreciate the new challenges that "schools are working on now".

For Hunte, astute management of the project has demonstrated what is possible "if you get your act together very quickly".

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples