– UG to receive $2.9B support
In a $250 billion national budget presented yesterday by Finance Minister Winston Jordan, the education sector has secured the expected lion’s share. This has translated to $43.1 billion or 17.2 percent of the entire budget.
This allocation, according to Jordan, serves to indicate that Government has given increased priority to the delivery of education across all levels.
According to the Minister, too, the allocated sum is expected to have a more definitive role in changing the development trajectory.
Included in the education sector’s allocation is a sum of $1.9 billion for the school feeding programme and $578 million to purchase textbooks.
And Jordan underscored yesterday that “together with the President’s 5 B’s Programme, these measures are expected to result in improved attendance, attentiveness, and productivity.”
In addition to this, Jordan said that in order to address issues of overcrowding and facilities’ improvements, over $3.5 billion has been allocated to construct, extend, rehabilitate and maintain schools, teachers’ quarters and other buildings.
Within this, several new schools are slated for completion, including Yurong Paru Nursery and Hiowa Nursery in Region Nine; Bamia Nursery and Primary in Region 10, and Baramita Nursery in Region One.
A total of 481 trained teachers were added to the pool of qualified teachers in the public school system this year. However, Jordan disclosed yesterday that in 2017, “we will aim to add another 600 to afford each student increased quality contact time. Furthermore, we will step up distribution of 61 computers under the One Laptop per Teacher Initiative, which was launched this year.”
Approximately 9,500 laptops are slated to be distributed to teachers countrywide to improve classroom instruction and productivity.
Meanwhile, the Minister in his presentation yesterday revealed that in the area of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), about $2.4 billion will be invested in the coming years to improve learning outcomes of students, at the secondary level, with the aim of expanding the pool of employable, certified labour that can adequately bridge the skills gap. This investment will see the expansion of TVET programmes into four hinterland regions and Minister Jordan revealed too that next year, a $2.5 billion allocation will cater to TVET interventions countrywide.
Added to this, the Minister announced that special focus will be placed on improving access for persons with disabilities.
Further, he revealed that Government, in keeping with its commitment to ensure that all sectors incorporate the fundamentals of a green economy, has ensured that the Ministry of Education partnered with the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) to reduce the usage and cost of electricity in schools. Energy assessments, he said, have been conducted at 29 secondary schools.
“We have rehabilitated 1,870 watts of photovoltaic systems and installed systems at selected schools in the hinterland regions, so as to facilitate the resumption of the interactive radio instruction (IRI) programmes and improve lighting in these schools,” related the Finance Minister.
Government has not been limited in its education for development vision. According to Jordan, Government is also paying keen attention to the University of Guyana – the national university. This facility he disclosed remains critical to enhancing Guyana’s human capital stock which is necessary for the diversification and ‘greening’ of the economy.
“We look forward to the ongoing repositioning of the University and the efforts to generate revenues and pursue investments that will create a more financially sustainable institution,” he noted.
As such he revealed that in 2017, the Government will allocate $2.9 billion to support the university’s operations and construct a teaching and learning complex for mathematics and science. Added to this, he said that the Student Loan Agency will be restructured to: (i) ensure institutional sustainability, (ii) achieve efficiency in processing of student loans, (iii) enable an electronic database to improve client interactions and (iv) improve customer service.
But according to the Finance Minister, increased financial allocations alone will not suffice to transform the sector.
He made reference to the need for all stakeholders to efficiently play their roles in ensuring that only the desired educational outcomes are forthcoming. Such outcomes, he observed, cannot be realised if teachers are either unpunctual, are frequently absent from classes, or when they do show up for classes, are deficient in classroom instruction and management.
“It will not suffice if parents are not investing their time and effort to support learning outcomes and it will not suffice if a head teacher fails to care and to supervise. It will not suffice if a Regional Education Officer is not held accountable for learning outcomes. It will not suffice if our lecturers at University do not show up for class, fail to deliver the content, and are tardy in the submission of student grades, and it will certainly not suffice, if we as parliamentarians fail to prioritise the education of the next generation. All must change their attitudes towards educational development in this dear land of ours,” the Minister asserted.
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