Based on information sourced directly from the Ministry of Education, the Region Eight, Kato Secondary School
currently under construction is attracting a whopping cost of just over $728 million.
This is believed to be an unprecedented cost for even a state of the art learning institution.
But according to Chief Education Officer (CEO), Olato Sam, the cost factor may in fact be very plausible.
“From my evaluation of it and other indicators…it is particularly expensive to get materials and other things to build a state of the art secondary school with all the modern specifications in an area such as that.”
Right Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), is one that is bordered by Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) to the north, Upper Demerara-Berbice (Region 10) and East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six) to the east and Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) and Brazil to the west.
“I don’t know if you would have visited it but I think if you are given the opportunity to see how remote the area is and how difficult it would be to get all of the necessary elements in; I think that from my discussions with our Buildings Manager, the situation really suggests to me that this is quite a feat getting a secondary school built in that area and getting everything in,” outlined Sam.
But even as he sought to link the cost of the institution to the remoteness of the area, the CEO was however unable to say exactly from where the materials for the project are being sourced. “I can’t say exactly from where they are accessing the materials…My understanding is that the remoteness of the area has a lot to do with it,” said Sam of the cost.
He sought to divert attention to the fact that the most important factor is that Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, has mandated that all elements of school construction projects including Bill of Quantities, must be made very public.
“The Minister has been very clear…and all the elements have been out there,” said Sam. “She wants the community to certainly have a say and a vested interest in what is going to happen because they are the direct beneficiaries.”
The CEO noted that ahead of construction works at schools throughout the country Education Ministry officials have been visiting communities to interact with residents. He recalled a recent visit to the East Bank Essequibo Zeeburg Secondary School where expansion works are ongoing. “We met with the PTA (Parent/Teacher Association), we met with the community members and said look this is the contractor, this is the engineer, these are the people responsible for the project, this is how much it is going to cost, these are the things they are supposed to be doing. We put the Bill of Quantities and all the schedules related to the construction on the bulletin board in the school and in the community where they can access it,” informed Sam.
The CEO said that the PTA and the community members decided to form a team to monitor the activities. “I think there is a certain degree of transparency in relation to these things that have been attached to all of our construction of schools…
“I think it’s just a matter of accessing the information to see exactly what relates to that particular project,” said the CEO.
A contract valued at $728,263,485 for the construction works on the Kato School was signed in December 2012 by Kares Engineering Inc., the construction firm. The works reportedly commenced in April 2013 and are slated to be completed next April.
The project which is reportedly on track has a defects liability period of 12 months and according to Ministry officials could possibly have an augmented cost. Once completed the school is expected to cater to some 500 children.
A report from the Government Information Agency classified the school as a “super structure” that will house the Secondary School with adjoining Administrative Block, the Teachers’ Quarters and Students Dormitory complete with dining area, lobby, sleeping area, laundry room, and accommodation for dorm wardens, kitchen, and sanitary facilities.
The school will have 12 classrooms, industrial arts department, canteen, two science laboratories, computer laboratory, home economic and agriculture departments, facilities for differently-able persons, sanitary blocks, two multi-purpose rooms, library and research area, and a visual arts department.
According Site Engineer, Patram Ramlall, the structure is currently up with the administrative building being almost completed with just a few more zinc sheets to be installed and the painting and interior works to be completed. The teachers’ quarter has also significantly progressed with just the doors and windows to be installed and painting to be completed.
Works on the dormitories are reportedly behind schedule, a state of affairs Ramlall said is due to rainfalls.
He said however that at least three crews are expected to visit the site in order to fast track works.
The construction of the school was premised on the growing hinterland population that has spurred complaints from several parents, students and staff of overcrowding and a lack of accommodation.
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