Towards improving education system by 2015
US$45M Fast Track Initiative launched
by Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
July 30, 2003

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MINISTER of Education, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, has exhorted education officials on the need for improved school management if the goal of significantly improving the standard of education is to be achieved.

Speaking at the recent launching of the US$45M `Education For All-Fast Track Initiative’ (EFA-FTI) at the Ocean View Hotel, Liliendaal, the Minister stressed that regardless of the education policies and programmes that are in place, if ills like the present high rate of absenteeism amongst both teachers and students are not curbed, then efforts at improving education standards would become futile.

Giving figures of the present level of absenteeism in primary schools, Dr. Jeffrey disclosed that for teachers it is about 20%, while for students it is around 30%. This he observed is far too high and called on education authorities to take steps to arrest the decline in attendance at schools.

Touching on the implementation of educational programmes, the Minister acknowledging the presence of Chairmen of the Regional Democratic Councils (RDC), made it categorically clear that the implementation of the policies and programmes and that Regional Education Officers are accountable to their respective RDCs and not the Central Ministry.

Dr. Jeffrey pointed out that the EFA-FTI is a spin off of the Dacca commitment which advocated that resources should be provided to those countries with a commitment to the development of education and have the necessary policy framework. He reiterated the Government’s commitment to improving the education system.

To this end, he noted that 20% of the national budget and eight percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on the education sector, situation that is matched only a few countries in the Caribbean.

But he observed, however, that in actual spending it amounts to a small sum which is in the vicinity of US150 per child per annum, compared to over US$400-600 per child in other Caribbean countries where the percentage of budgetary allocations is smaller.

That is the economic reality the Mnister remarked, hence the need for help with additional resources which will be provided by the EFA-FTI.

Among the provisions under the assistance programme are improved housing for teachers in order to attract more qualified personnel, particularly in the outlying areas, and the possible introduction of hot meals for students under a school feeding programme, the minister disclosed.

The Education Minister commended the World Bank and its officials that were involved in organizing the EFA-FTI for the expeditious manner in which it was put together.

Guyana is one of seven countries to receive endorsement of their EFA-FTI programme from the international donor community. A main goal of the programme is to achieve universal primary school completion for all children by 2015. Guyana’s plan calls for financing US$45M worth of education activities between now and 2015 to achieve this goal.

The average annual amount of financing over 13 years is US$3.46M and this will enable the government to support the expansion of several existing programmes that can be grouped into three broad initiatives and would target the strategic goals for education in Guyana.

The three initiatives are: improving the quality of the teaching force in the hinterland at a cost of US$4.74M; enhancing the teaching/learning environment in primary schools at a cost of US$18.83M and strengthening school/community partnerships at a cost of US21.46M.

These initiatives are in consonance with Guyana’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Education Strategy Development plan and the EFA-FTI goals for primary education, all of which aim to achieve equity in accessing quality education and produce a literate and numerate society.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Ganga Persaud described the EFA-FTI as “unique” and expressed gratitude to the donor community for their collaborative effort in the successful realization of the programme.

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