Jeffrey appeals to stakeholders to help lift education standards
Guyana Chronicle
March 2, 2002

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TWO pupils of the Plaisance Primary School are assisted by Minister of Education Dr. Henry Jeffrey (right) and Regional Education Officer Mr. Balram Indrajeet (extreme left) in cutting the ribbon at the commissioning ceremony. At centre are Mr. R.B. Persaud of the Primary Education Improvement Programme (PEIP) and Mr. Thomas Sandiford, Chairman of the Plaisance/ Industry Neighbourhood Democratic Council. (Picture by Corwin Williams)

MINISTER of Education Dr. Henry Jeffery is urging the stakeholders in education to make a greater effort to ensure that the standard of learning is lifted in schools, since Government is providing better infrastructure for a more conducive learning environment.

Dr Jeffrey noted that with the significant amount of money Government is pumping into the building of schools, maintenance of the structures should be a main focus of attention for stakeholders such as the Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs), old students’ groups and the teachers’ body.

Speaking Thursday at the commissioning of the Plaisance Primary School, East Coast Demerara, the Minister said that while it is good to be in a new school with an environment that is conducive to enhanced learning, people cannot fully understand its true value unless it is looked at in a global context.

“It is untrue to say that buildings don’t matter much. They matter if you are in a depressed environment. They affect how you study and your willingness to study. Therefore, one should take advantage of the good environment which was created for that.”

Dr Jeffrey disclosed that the Government spends about 20 percent of its revenue on the education sector, and noted that this is a significant amount when weighed against the expenditure that is needed for projects in so many other sectors.

“That goes to show how much attention the Government is paying to education,” he pointed out.

The Minister said that despite the attention being given to education, there is a major problem at the primary level.

“Too many people are leaving primary schools functionally illiterate”. He said that a significant number of people are not literate enough to carry out some very basic functions.

Therefore, the central issue, the Minister said, is for every teacher in a primary school to attempt every thing possible to bring each child to the required level of education. He impressed upon teachers that they must take it as their duty to ensure that children are capable of reading the required books and doing the required sums.

Dr Jeffrey said also that parents have an important role to play in the educational development of their children as well.

The newly commissioned Plaisance Primary School. (Picture by Corwin Williams)

“Parents are in control of their children 92 percent of the time from birth. Although the school plays an important role in the lives of children, there is hardly any child that would have made a remarkable achievement without the right kind of influence from his or her parents,” the Minister stated.

“Government has put incentive regimes in place to encourage educators by offering to pay them for additional qualifications, and providing additional resources such as house lots for those who have graduated with degrees,” he explained.

However, there is still need to build schools for about 40,000 secondary students, the Minister disclosed. He said at the primary level there are about 110,000 children that are accommodated and at the secondary level there are only about 65,000 in schools.

There is need for about 20 more schools and that has nothing to do with some community and high schools such as the Charlestown Secondary, and all the multilateral schools that cannot accommodate the full number of students because sections of the buildings are closed off awaiting repairs.

“Although the Government is putting 20 percent of the budget into education, there is still a major problem of providing new schools, and repairing those that are already on the ground,” he said.

“That is why it is important that the people who are stakeholders in education recognise the necessity of maintaining the buildings and utilising them properly. We cannot allow the physical infrastructure we have to go the way they went before, through negligence,” the Minister advised.

The Plaisance Primary School was built at a cost of $34.8M and was funded by the Government of Guyana and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The new reinforced concrete, two-storeyed structure was built by Mangal’s Construction Firm and is designed to accommodate 750 students. The project lasted for a seven months.

The construction of a new sanitary block and rehabilitation of another, installation of a new water storage system, landscaping, drainage and a full complement of furniture are among aspects of the project.

Headmistress Ms Hazel Answick noted in her report that there were some defects such as inadequate sanitary facilities for the 19 female teachers, and the lack of an incinerator to properly dispose of refuse. She also listed the need for a security guard to be stationed at the school.(JAIME HALL)