Jeffrey plans to set up education advisory commission

Stabroek News
April 20, 2001

New Minister of Education, Henry Jeffrey plans to set up an advisory commission on education which would eventually evolve into a legal body. He also issued a call for a strategic alliance between the ministry and the teachers union.

In his first public engagement at the GTU Hall in Thomas Lands, the minister could not outline a vision for education for the next five years "without having anything tangible to work with...

"I believe nothing... Everything must be evidential," the Minister told the 117th annual delegates conference of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) on Wednesday evening.

He said "things are easily said conceptually but difficult to do."

Jeffrey was the replacement guest speaker for President Bharrat Jagdeo who was scheduled to speak on the topic: "Guyana's Education System: A Vision for the 21st Century". Jagdeo was on a visit to the mining town of Linden.

Jeffrey said the vision for an education policy "will require proof" of what exists. "I need proof."

He related an anecdote in this regard, and one which can be described as befitting of the old adage: "Don't hang your hat where your hand can't reach."

"When you define a vision you will have to live with that vision" Jeffrey pointed out, noting that "I will have to understand where we want to go then pronounce on a vision... [one] clearly defined."

He suggested that his starting point as the new education minister would be to appoint a broad-based national advisory commission on education.

He said the commission would assist in defining a policy for education, one he would like to see crafted on the basis of realism.

A major issue at stake is teachers' remuneration. "I know this is going to be a burning issue" but "you can't pay more than the income of the country."

Jeffrey set out to mathematically analyse the constraints on Government over the issue of increased wages and salaries.

"One's capacity to spend on any service will depend on the income of the country. You can't do it any other way... You are teachers, do the calculation."

US$800 per capita is spent on each Guyanese, Jeffrey illustrated, while a child's per capita education cost is US$40.

Tackling the perception of the rich lifestyle of government officials, Jeffrey said "Forget the Ministers, the numbers are not hidden from you... it is for you to teach the children.

"What it is is the hard reality... I don't care how many corners you cut here, it is not going to make a difference" he stated in response to the call for raising the US$800.

He criticised the system of monitoring of schools saying this is one area he will have to streamline.