Forty new secondary schools needed to cater for demand countrywide
- Education Minister
Stabroek News
March 1, 2002

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There is need for some 40 secondary schools countrywide to cater for students who never make it to the secondary level because of the unavailability of places, Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey said.

Delivering the main address at the commissioning of the rehabilitated and extended Plaisance Primary School on Prince William Street, Plaisance yesterday, Dr Jeffrey said that at present there are some 110,000 children who leave the primary system, but only 65,000 were on roll at the secondary level. This was due to the unavailability of places in secondary institutions and the need for new schools.

However, this has nothing to do with school buildings such as Charlestown and Kwakwani secondary schools which now need rebuilding.

Contrary to the view that buildings were not necessary, Dr Jeffrey said that a conducive environment was essential to enhance learning.

The Plaisance Primary School was extended and rehabilitated at a cost of $34.8 million under the Government of Guyana/Inter-American Development Bank-funded Primary Education Improvement Project. The works were undertaken by Mangal's Construction Services over a seven-month period.

The school, formerly Plaisance Methodist Primary, was rehabilitated and extended to accommodate 750 pupils. The extension includes the construction of a new block, Block `B', and the renovation of Block `A'. The original one-flat school was built in 1938 and began with an enrolment of 300 children. That enrolment has since doubled.

The school's headmistress, Hazel Answick, in an overview noted that since 1994 there had been a pressing need for a new school as the pupil population had reached 600 and there was gross overcrowding.

As the land then belonged to the Methodist Church, government enacted legislation in order to acquire it from the religious body.

The new block is a two-storey building with a reinforced concrete foundation and frame, block-walls and parade vent block-work. The rehabilitation work on Block `A' included reinforcing concrete columns, timber beams and walls and replacing the roof with corrugated galvanised sheeting and a hard-wood frame.

Other works included the erection of a new water storage system, external works such as construction of walkways and aprons, a septic tank, bridge, minor drainage structure and landscaping, and the supply of furniture.

However, the school's headmistress has noted there was still need for physical improvement to the school and its environment.

Answick drew attention to other pressing needs, noting that the children had just one standpipe which had been installed by a parent; the school was without security guards or a guard hut, there was no cycle shed and the children's bicycles were left in the corridors at the mercy of thieves; there was no flag pole for the hoisting of the Golden Arrowhead at school assembly; and the school also needed an incinerator for proper garbage disposal.

Urging that stakeholders play a more active role in ensuring the school was maintened, Dr Jeffrey said that they could not allow the physical structure of the school to simply deteriorate.

Commending the children on their cultural performances at the commissioning ceremony and commenting in particular on the poem `Stop the Exodus' which referred to the migration of teachers, the minister said the issue was one of peoples' choices.

However, he urged teachers to ensure that children under their supervision were functionally literate and that they achieved the objectives of the class they were in before moving to a higher level.

The education minister noted too that teachers were often blamed for the poor performance of their children but the time at home could not be compared with the time spent at school. He stated that children spent 92% of their time at home or out of the school environment and just eight per cent of their time in primary/secondary school life. Under such conditions, he observed, the school could not succeed where parents failed.