Georgetown, GINA, September 5, 2013
Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Ganga Persaud has commended all regional administrations and the Departments of Education, in each region along with the head teachers, teachers, parents and students for their roles in ensuring that the various schools were prepared and ready on September 2 to receive students for the academic year 2013-2014.
“I think all of these stakeholders recognised that the business of education, and maintaining and preparing educational facilities cannot rest with any single entity, because it is a collective responsibility to ensure that our children are accommodated in the best facilities possible, and in a manner that is conducive to learning,” Minister Persaud said.
The Local Government Minister also commended Minister of Education Priya Manickchand for her proactive role particularly in Region Four in ensuring the schools and the education facilities were ready to receive the children, when those who would have had the duty to do so were tardy.
By and large, the reopening of schools on September 2 went smoothly countrywide with a few minor exceptions. In Region Four, Minister Manickchand intervened after a small number of Neighbhourhood Democratic Council (NDCs) reneged on their commitment to prepare the schools’ compounds.
Minister Persaud explained however, that in Region Four it is a norm that NDCs work collaboratively with the Departments of Education and the Regional Administration in preparing education facilities for the new school term.
“This year the expectations were the same and the Department of Education would have in its usual way, engaged the NDCs, and explained the financial situation with regards to the department’s education budget, and once again, solicited the support from the NDCs.”
However, during inspections on August 28, it was found that three NDCs on the East Coast Demerara and another on the East Bank had gone back on their word but failed to communicate this to the Department of Education.
“It is unfortunate and very sad that those four NDCs sought to take that kind of approach, bearing in mind that the children who attend those schools, it is their parents who are paying the rates and taxes to these NDCs.”
He pointed out that an investment in the education facilities within the boundaries of those NDCs would have served as a motivating factor to parents; rate payers and tax payers to positively respond to the call coming from those NDCs to meet their rate and taxes obligation.
Minister Persaud stated too, that Buxton-Foulis, which is among one of the four NDCs, had budgeted in their 2013 budget, which was subsequently approved by the ministry, funds for cleaning services and cleaning of school compounds.
This NDC Chairman however, stated publicly that such a responsibility is not a function of the NDC. “I do not agree fully with that statement. I agree yes, that the responsibility rests with the Department of Education, but nowhere have I seen that it is stated that NDCs must not get involved in such kind of activities,” Minister Persaud said. “The NDC chairman should check his budget that was approved and he would recognise that there is a line-item that he would have sought that makes provision for the cleaning of school compounds.”
Minister Persaud also criticised those other stakeholders within the communities of the schools affected who failed to play their part in ensuring the preparedness of the buildings. He pointed to school administrators and teachers, who he said cannot remove themselves from the responsibility as well. “I am wondering where these school administrators were, also where were the teachers, because I think that it is required that teachers do turn up before the commencement of school, and prepare the facility and prepare the various teaching props to accommodate the children,” he said.
He said too, that the Parent Teachers Association in some of these communities has responsibility to maintain and prepare these facilities.
The Minister stated that in communities where this shared responsibility was accepted and implemented, all the educational facilities were ready to receive the children, and expressed hope that in those communities where stakeholders were lukewarm and felt and that the responsibility is not theirs, this attitude will change and, “we will rekindle that spirit of patriotism where we all recognise and take pride in our education facilities and recognise our role in helping to maintain these facilities for the good of our children.”
Meanwhile, it has been almost once week since schools have reopened countrywide and though there are still a few undergoing repair, this however has not affected the delivery of education to the students, since adequate alternative arrangements have been put in place.
The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development’s Permanent Secretary, Collin Croal, today reported that in Region One, the Hosororo Primary School is currently closed for repairs, but the students are being accommodated at the Hosororo Community Centre.
Also, under construction in the region is the North West Secondary School. Construction on this school started in February and is expected to be completed before year-end. According to PS Croal, classes are being conducted under a shift system at facilities in Mabaruma including the Learning Resource Centre, the Conference Hall and the Parish Hall.
In Region Two, along the Pomeroon River, there some schools whose repairs commenced during the August holiday and are nearing completion. Since school has re-commenced, the work will be completed during the weekends, so as not to disrupt classes, he said.
All the schools were opened in Region Three from the first day, however the L’ Adventure Secondary School in the Region was on September 4 gutted by fire, disrupting classes. The Ministry of Education, the Region Three Administration and the PTA have put in place alternative arrangements so that classes can re-commence on September 9.
In Region Four, the only oversight was the issue of the few school compounds’ maintenance. In Region Five, the only hiccup was with Shieldstown Nursery School which lost 14 zinc sheets to high wind. These have since been replaced by the regional administration.
In Region Six, there was problem with the supply of furniture to a few schools. “This is mainly because the contractor that was contracted to supply the furniture did not deliver same in time. We do have a commitment that the furniture that was intended for the various schools during this school term this will be done by September 6,” Croal said.
In Region Seven, at Kamarang, the primary classes are being held in the dining hall constructed for the hot meal programme as the primary school is currently under repairs, Croal stated. Also in that region at Itaballi, a new primary school is being constructed, thus, classes are being held at the multi purpose hall in the community.
Region Eight hardly had issues, except that at the Mahdia Primary School, there was tardiness in ensuring the school environment was cleaned for the first day.
There were no problems in Region Nine, but the PS did report that the newly constructed Sand Creek Secondary School is now providing access to education to an additional 50 students from the North Pakaraimas in Region Eight, mainly from the Parmakatoi Secondary which is overcrowded. He said that the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs helped to transport the students to Sand Creek. “The reports coming back are that the students have settled in well, and we are currently working to ensure that the necessary facility and extra beds are all satisfied,” he said.
Region Ten had the unfortunate incident of delivery of the food and ration for the Kwakwani dormitory for the new school term being affected by the road block at Ituni. Through the Ministry of Education’s intervention, the food was subsequently flown in.