Education Minister Priya Manickchand yesterday promised to investigate reports of students of the Santa Rosa Primary School are being forced to fetch water, while telling the National Assembly that it is the Local Government Ministry that is responsible for the day-to-day operations involving education in the regions.
She was at the time responding to questions raised by APNU Shadow Minister of Education Amna Ally, who raised issues affecting the Santa Rosa Primary.
Manickchand, however, said that while it has been determined that the Education Ministry is responsible for policy and the results of the policy, ensuring the delivery of education falls under the ambit of the Local Government Ministry.
“The Honourable Member is directing her question at the wrong person… but I would be happy to investigate to ensure that this temporary issue is resolved as quickly as possible,” Manickchand said.
Ally stated that while flush toilets were installed at the school and a significant amount of money was spent on water tanks, these were not working.
While holding up pictures of the water tanks and a student fetching a bucket of water, she told the National Assembly that there was no drinking water at the school and that the children are being forced to fetch water on a daily basis.
The Shadow Minister also asked if there was a cleaner appointed to the school by the ministry, and the minister informed that policy is within her remit and that if the allegations are true, the ministry will deal with it. “We do have to investigate whether it is true because the wood fetching incident, the Toshao and members of that community wrote to say that this was a posed picture.
The children were asked to pose by an AFC member.”
Manickchand’s statement caused an uproar in the House and Speaker Raphael Trotman stated that a parliamentary delegation visited Kato and its members were told of reports of children fetching logs. “That was a delegation that comprised both government and opposition; we were told that yes, there was a time when firewood had to be fetched and it was regrettable… I am quite surprised to hear that statement,” Trotman said. He also said that he would forward Ally’s questions to the Local Government Minister.
Manickchand acknowledged that there were challenges in dealing with several schools, particularly those in far flung areas, but added that the ministry’s policy is to deliver a quality curriculum by investing in resources.
She informed that the ministry does not support students being involved in labour if it interferes with their tuition but that they encourage them to be responsible and this may include them helping to clean their surroundings and may involve them helping to sweep their classrooms.
“We do not support the policy, have not outlined the policy, and do not implement any policy where children would be engaged in any activity that would take away from their tuition… if there is a breach of the policy, we would address that,” she said.
As the minister was speaking, Ally shouted out, “Shame, shame!” She said she found it convenient that the minister could have answered part of the question asked.