Guyana allocated US$8M to upgrade hinterland education by Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
December 9, 2003

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Guyana has been allocated US$8M from the New Education For All Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) Catalytic Fund for the period 2004-2005.

The fund is to be used to upgrade hinterland education, purchase textbooks for the primary school level, introduce a remote areas incentive for teachers, provide housing for hinterland teachers and improve school feeding, among others.

There will be a two-tier system with teachers in the areas farthest from defined centers being paid about $7,000, and those closer being paid $5,000.

This is the first time donor funds are being used to enhance remunerations. However, the US$4M allocated for 2005 will depend largely on implementation performance for 2004.

Minister of Education, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, represented Guyana at the third meeting of the FTI Partnership in Oslo, Norway, November 20-21 last.

This initiative was launched last year as a major effort to mobilize resources for the EFA programme, following the Monetary Financing for Development Conference in 2001, when the international community defined a Global Compact for achieving Millennium Development Goals.

Dr. Jeffrey has told education officials about the need for improved school management if the goal of significantly improving the standard of education is to be achieved.

The FTI builds upon and reinforces existing funding mechanisms, and the bulk of the additional funding to be mobilized through this process will come through donor channels already in place. The new multi-donor Catalytic Fund and a proposed Facility for Programme Preparation will supplement these channels, in exceptional circumstances. According to the Ministry of Education substantial resources have been mobilized and a further US$235M has been committed to the Fund. Guyana was one of the first countries to gain FTI approval.

The EFA-FTI programme in Guyana was declared open in July this year and the minister stressed that regardless of education policies and programmes that are in place, if ills like the present high rate of absenteeism amongst both teachers and students is 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 he called on education authorities to take steps to arrest the absenteeism at schools.

Touching on the implementation of educational programmes, the minister, who acknowledged the presence of Chairmen of the Regional Democratic Councils (RDC) at the launching ceremony, made it clear that the implementation of these policies and programmes and that Regional Education Officers are accountable to their respective RDCs and not the Central Ministry.

Dr. Jeffrey pointing 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, reiterated the Government's commitment to improving the education system.

He noted that 20% of the national budget and eight percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on the education sector, and this, he said is matched by only a few countries in the Caribbean. However, he observed 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 minister declared, hence the need for help with additional resources, which will be provided by the EFA-FTI.

Dr. Jeffrey also attended the third high-level meeting on EFA, which was held on November 10-12 in India.

The focus of the meeting was on eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education 2015. While recognizing that much progress has been made, it was observed that the majority of the 104 million out of school children are girls (57%) and that almost two-thirds of the 860 million non-illiterate people are women.

Consequently, it was agreed that progress needs to be drastically accelerated since more than half of the 128 countries for which data are available are unlikely to meet the gender parity goals in primary and secondary education by 2005, unless policies are changed.

The meeting is held annually to monitor the progress made towards achieving EFA goals which were set by the world community at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, where it was stated that: "no country that is making a substantial national financial effort and has proper plans, and the will to implement them should be prevented from reaching the EPA goals for want of financial resources."