– Minister announces
– plans for extension of West Dem. Secondary unveiled
By Sharmain Grainger
A new secondary school at Parfait Harmonie by 2016 and the rebuilding of the Zeeburg and St John’s secondary schools will help pave the way for all children in the Region to have access to that level of education.
This, according to Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, will aid the bigger vision of universal secondary education, a goal that President Donald Ramotar said he was aiming to achieve before the end of his first term.
The Minister’s disclosure was made yesterday during a visit to the Region Three West Demerara Secondary School, to announce to stakeholders a $22.6M extension project which will see the school gaining six additional classrooms.
The forum, which saw a wide cross-section of the Region Three stakeholders gathered in the auditorium of the school, was heralded in with zestful steel pan renditions by mainly Grade Eight students of the Pouderoyen, West Bank Demerara School.
This was followed by a formal start to the programme, complete with remarks from Acting Head Master, Mr. Harri Narine, who chronicled the development of the school over the years, and even went on to detail efforts of the Ministry to help improve the sector.
Minister Manickchand, who was next to take the podium, wasted no time in telling the capacity audience about the investments Government has plugged into the sector since assuming power.
But although she was able to deliberate on a number of education-related issues, the primary intent of the forum was however to discuss plans for the extension works at the school.
The proposed works, which will be undertaken by Vision General Construction Services, headed by Marlon and Mario Andrews, will cater to the construction of six new classrooms to the southern section of the existing structure. Currently the school is outfitted with 19 classrooms catering to 650 students.
The duration of the project is five months, starting from today, following which a six-month defects and liability period will start. With a total length of 72 feet by 30 feet, it will entail the construction of two flats with three classrooms each, all separated by walls. There will also be corridors on each floor with two stairways, and according to Minister Manickchand, the building will cater to persons with disabilities, a feature that is being incorporated in all new buildings the Ministry constructs in conformity with the Disability Act.
The contracting firm is currently undertaking works at a school at Cornelia Ida, West Coast Demerara, and has done a number of other school projects in Georgetown.
But according to Minister Manickchand, although there have been no bad reports about the contracting firm’s work in the past, the Ministry will be embracing its new Policy, which was implemented to guard against shoddy work.
Moreover, the Minister called on the stakeholders in attendance to help supervise the project as she introduced them to Marlon Andrews, who represented the contracting firm yesterday.
This is required, Manickchand said, since there have been a number of contractors who have been guilty of “conning” the Ministry, a state of affairs that can “rob our children of their education.”
The Head Master (ag) of the school said that he is hopeful that the planned works will allow for the school to be upgraded to a sixth form facility.
“We are hoping that we can offer CAPE (Caribbean Advance Proficiency Examination) because right now there is no school in the Region that is offering CAPE,” Narine told this publication.
The West Demerara Secondary School is an ‘A’ List school, parallel to that of the Zeeburg Secondary. However, upgrading a school to a Sixth Form status is a decision that must be made at the level of the Education Ministry.
Assistant Chief Education Officer (Development), Ms Doodmattie Singh, informed yesterday that the extension of the school may help the Ministry in its efforts to accommodate some students when moves are made to relocate the Vreed-en-Hoop Secondary school, which is situated in an area that becomes easily inundated.
While not commenting on the possibility of upgrading the school, Minister Manickchand did note, that the project represents yet another move by Government to expend substantial funds towards the improvement of the educational facility.
She highlighted that Government operates with the conviction that “the only way we can change the lives of people is to invest in education and we have been doing that, and that has been giving us serious results such as universal primary education.”
She noted though that the Ministry is yet challenged to make sure that children who are in the classroom are actually able to learn.
Manickchand asserted that Guyana’s gains are laudable, with regards to the improvement of the sector, when compared to some sections of the world. Some countries, she revealed, are still talking about access “but we as a little country have achieved a lot.”
Also discussed yesterday was the support that Government continues to give to parents to help support the schooling of their children. Among these were the uniform vouchers being offered and the $10,000 assured cash grant from Government.
Discussions on the grant saw the majority of stakeholders asking to encash vouchers from the Ministry at a bank. They were also informed that the grant will be payable by mid-October.
Several stakeholders also raised matters of concerns and shared recommendations all aimed at improving the delivery of the teaching/learning process.
The Minister, accompanied by her Permanent Secretary, Ms. Delma Nedd, and other education officials, was able to take note of the issues raised with a view to having them addressed.
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