Officials face overcrowding at City schools

By Kim Lucas
Guyana Chronicle
July 31, 1999

DESPITE efforts by the Education Ministry to avoid overcrowding in City schools, officials are facing a severe space problem and indications are that schools will become even more crowded.

Education officials said yesterday that all the nursery and primary schools in North Georgetown are already filled, and there is limited space at about five other schools in the South.

At a press conference yesterday at the Guyana Television Broadcasting Company (GTV 11), Mr Romeo McAdam said the situation highlights the need for more and larger schools in the City.

According to the Assistant Chief Education Officer (Georgetown), these are some of the physical constraints that they cannot overcome, but will have to live with.

"We are facing a severe space problem in Georgetown and will inevitably end up overcrowding some schools...we definitely need more schools in Georgetown, or larger schools," McAdam stated.

On the other hand, McAdam repeatedly said the Ministry will not overcrowd the schools, since it will not be good for the children and teachers, and can impinge on the quality of education.

Officials said this year there were 7,300 applications for the 38 nursery and 35 primary schools in the City, 19 per cent more than last year.

In most cases, the numbers applying to specific schools exceeded the space available, reporters were told.

According to Chief Education Officer, Mr Ed Caesar, who was also at the meeting, there were 346 applications for Stella Maris this year, but that school has a capacity for only 120; 458 at St Margaret's Primary, which can take only 110; 378 at West Ruimveldt, where only 175 can be accepted; 394 at Sacred Heart Primary, where there are only 300 spaces; and 370 at St Agnes, which will only take 120.

And so officials are appealing to parents to accept the schools allocated to their children.

There were also about 400 applications for city schools from persons living outside of Georgetown, in areas such as East Bank Demerara, some as far as Timehri; East Coast Demerara and from Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara).

According to McAdam most parents believe that there are only seven `good' primary schools in the City and they ignore the others.

He said schools need to "sell themselves" by way of performance and, at the same time, places of work must be decentralised.

Conceding that they have a right to want what is best for their children, the Assistant CEO urged parents to "give the (other) schools a chance and don't just act on hearsay".

So far, the placement process has gone smoothly, and the Ministry has not faced the problems of past years when security measures had to be implemented.

Another issue raised at the press conference was the age criterion for nursery school entrants.

Education Officials maintained that children must be three years, nine months by the end of the year, to be accepted into nursery schools.

Using a new system of registration, Education officials visited some 50 play groups and day-care centres around the City, to accommodate parents' applications.

Letters of placement were subsequently distributed, but the Ministry found that some parents falsified their addresses so their children can be placed into certain schools. These mail were returned to the Ministry.

Parents who have not received a response from the Ministry as well as those who have not yet registered their children are asked to visit the Ministry on August 16, "before it is too late".

They should walk with the child's birth certificate, clinic card and proof of their current address.

In cases where children are without birth certificates, a special letter will be issued for the school's head to accept the child until the document is produced.

A similar letter will be given to the parents to take to the post office, so as to help "speed up" the process.

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