Ministry to register private schools
Stabroek News
May 23, 2004

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The Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Ed Caesar, has delegated education departments to register the growing number of private schools.

This follows complaints by students and parents who find they are being fleeced by some operators of private schools who cannot keep their commitment to provide a quality education and to pay the teachers their salaries.

While a number of students are being swindled, Minister of Education, Dr Henry Jeffrey noted that the more established private schools are providing quality service.

The ministry's register currently contains the names of eight established private schools but it is estimated that there are in excess of 30 others.

The directive by the Chief Education Officer is in keeping with the powers conferred on him to establish and close schools in keeping with certain standards laid out in the regulations appended to the Education Act.

Meanwhile an education bill, which is currently in draft form, would deal in greater length with the establishment and closure of private schools, Chief Planning Officer in the Ministry of Education, Evelyn Hamilton said.

Specific sections pertaining to private schools had been repealed in the Education Act when the government took control of all private and denominati-onal schools in the country in 1976. But provision is still in place for government-aided schools.

Jeffrey told Stabroek News that the new Education Act should be laid before Parliament in eighteen months. It should make provision for all private schools to be licensed to operate.

One senior education official, who was knowledgeable about the establishment of Mae's and School of the Nations, having been an advisor to the government on their establishment, noted that there are regulations within the current law that give the Chief Education Officer powers for the establishment, inspection, maintenance and closure of the schools, among other things.

Mae's Under-12, which pioneered the establishment of private schools over the past decade, was established under the powers of the Chief Education Officer. Guidelines were also put in place to facilitate this process in keeping with the basic guidelines outlined in the Education Act for public schools.

The official said that while the Chief Education Officer cannot carry out the duties himself, by extension, he has the authority to mandate the officers working under him to carry out those functions. With the establishment of a number of private schools in recent years, the education departments tended to take a hands-off attitude to their establishment, claiming they did not have the authority to intervene.

Stabroek News was unable to make contact with the Chief Education Officer to give an update on the number of applications made to the ministry for the establishment of private schools in the country.

Asked to give an indication as to the number of private schools currently operating in the country, Hamilton's response was that she had not the "slightest idea." Her response was similar to that of other senior education officials including the minister himself.

According to the register of private schools kept at the ministry, one per cent or 2,000 of the private students make up the student population in the country. Based on actual registration at these schools, the number is in excess of 3,000.

At present the schools on the ministry's register are Mae's Under- 12, New Guyana School, School of the Nations, Marian Academy, Green Acres Nursery, Guyana Education Trust and Emmanuel Education Complex. Aroaima Primary in Region Ten is the only school outside of Georgetown. (Miranda La Rose)