We aim to provide all our children with quality primary education
--- Education Minister Dr. Henry Jeffrey in radio message
Guyana Chronicle
April 22, 2004

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'EDUCATION For All' Week is upon us (beginning today) and I am delighted to outline to you some of our activities associated with this initiative.

Other officers of the ministry, members of the regional administrations, head teachers, teachers, pupils and other stakeholders will also, this week, participate in Education For All activities.

Many of you will have heard that the 164 countries which gathered at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000 restated their commitment to Education For All: the right of all children to a good primary education by 2015 and the achievement of gender parity in primary education by 2005.

They also committed that no country would be prevented from achieving these goals for lack of funding.

The Education For All - Fast Track Initiative was established by the World Bank to assist in funding the attainment of these and the Millennium Development educational goals.

Here, the commitment was that any country with a viable education plan would obtain the necessary funding.

The Education For All - Fast Track Initiative is a global partnership and Guyana is pleased to be among the first four countries to become eligible for funding.

One of our sector's main considerations is that of equity. Indeed, equity is the cornerstone of our education strategic plan that is rooted in the National Development and Poverty Reduction strategies.

For decades the various Governments of Guyana have been committed to universal primary education but there are still serious regional disparities that have to be addressed.

For example, the primary completion rate is 87.8% on the coast but only 64.4% in the hinterland.

We plan to achieve an overall 100% completion rate by the end of the period.

Similarly, we hope to increase the number of trained teachers from 32% to 74% in the hinterland and 53% to 68% on the coast, thus providing 191 extra, trained hinterland teachers and 692 extra on the coast.

By 2015, the repetition and dropout rates should also decrease by 10%.

The ministry therefore faces many challenges as it tries to improve education delivery.

Government spending on education is now 19% of the national budget and, as a result, we have been able to pursue programs to improve the pupil-teacher ratio, lower the repetition rate, etc.

However, it is well recognized that our resources still fall far short of what is necessary to achieve the Education For All goals.

Thus, our acceptance for funding under the Education for All Fast Track Initiative!

Under this program, in 2004, we will spend an additional $11m establishing learning centres, $30m upgrading school utilities, and $350m on the supply of textbooks.

The existing hard-lying allowance of just under $6,000 per month is perceived as inadequate to attract teachers to the Hinterland.

We will spend some $60m to provide an additional remote area allowance for more than 700 teachers.

Although it gives special attention to previously underserved populations, the Education For All - Fast Track Initiative is embedded in our strategic plan and like other programs will be undertaken as part of the normal work of the Education Ministry.

We are paying special attention to increasing the level of commitment of students, parents and communities.

I take this opportunity of thanking our international partners for thinking us worthy of additional funding. We also renew our call to all stakeholders to join us in this exciting and worthwhile venture to provide all our children with a quality primary education.

Best wishes in this Education for All week.