Major education project to be implemented this year
-- international experts to help in reform process By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
April 9, 2002

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THE education sector continues to receive significant financial resources to support programmes for continued upliftment and enhancement of national educational standards, Minister Dr. Henry Jeffrey reported yesterday.

He told a news conference at GTV 11 studios in Georgetown that 17.2 per cent of budgetary allocations this year is for the education sector - about 8.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and proportionally the highest allocation in the Caribbean.

The Education Minister said $150M has been earmarked to construct and refurbish several schools during this year and a sustained maintenance programme for schools and education buildings will be implemented.

The required sum is about $800M annually, but because of financial constraints $600M has been allocated for this year, he reported.

In addition, the Basic Education Access and Management Support (BEAMS) project which comes into effect in July this year, addresses major aspects of the education system, including school performance, organisational and human resources and infrastructure.

Jeffrey said it is envisaged that under this project US$17.6M is to be spent over a four-year period.

Under the school performance component it is proposed to improve the foundation of the early mastery of literacy and numeracy skills, develop pedagogical skills, create a stimulating educational environment and equity in educational opportunities, enhance performance in poverty zones, improve diagnostic remediation services and effective teaching methods, he said.

Jeffrey told reporters that while physical capacity has a significant impact on the standard of education, improving the quality of delivery is also essential.

In this regard greater emphasis will be placed on teacher training, curriculum reform and restructuring of the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) into a corporate body. The Education Ministry will be securing the services of five international experts to assist in the reform process, he said.

The ministry will also be involved in poverty alleviation in an effort to supplement the nutritional needs of more than 40,000 students at nursery and primary schools, so making them better able to attend to their lessons.

The minister noted that partially as a result of the anti-truancy campaign it was found that many children did not go to school because of hunger.

Present resources are inadequate to cover the entire population of nursery and primary students, he explained.

In order to deal more comprehensively with the problem and utilise resources more rationally, the Government has decided to increase its allocation from $75M to $156.6M this year for the purchase of milk and biscuits.

All primary and nursery schools in Regions One (Barima/Waini), Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni), Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) will be fully covered, he said.

Also to be fully covered are the riverain areas of Regions Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands), Four (Demerara/Mahaica), Five (Mahaica/Berbice), Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) and 10 (Upper Demerara/Berbice).

These are considered the poorest parts of Guyana.

In addition, head teachers of nursery and primary schools in Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and 10 will be required to identify specific students who are at risk and request the necessary supplies, Jeffrey said.

The Education Ministry estimates that this will be approximately 15% of the school population of those regions.

Grants for uniforms have also been increased from $10M to $31M this year and this will be used to provide uniforms for children from the poorer sections of society.

Jeffrey reported that the current system of distributing textbooks would be revamped as it is posing both financial and logistical problems. The core textbooks would be provided for students and established libraries will be installed in each school stocked with supplementary textbooks.

The minister estimated the implementation of this system would cost $800M-$1B and would take about three years to become fully operational.

On the issue of corporal punishment in schools, Jeffrey said Cabinet has taken a decision that it must apply to "stringently defined areas" and there must be effective monitoring of its application.