Government wants to commit $32.3 billion this year to carry out infrastructural and other improvements to the education sector, according to the 2014 budget.
The proposed allocation is $3.8 billion more than what was expended last year ($28.5 billion), and Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh told Members of Parliament during the budget presentation on Monday that the funds are to be used to implement the first year of a “new Education Strategic Plan.”
As part of the plan $2.9 billion is to be used “towards the construction, rehabilitation, extension and maintenance of education facilities including a new and expanded Zeeburg Secondary School and the Kato Secondary complex.” Last year $2.7 billion was spent on infrastructural works, including the commencement of “the reconstruction of the One Mile Primary School, La Venture Secondary School and Parfaite Harmonie Primary.”
Also, $10 million will be used to implement a “Universal Secondary Education initiative” as government seeks to construct new secondary schools, provide materials which are expected to improve teaching techniques, and provide technology for assisted learning in mathematics.
Singh continued that the Cyril Potter College of Education will focus on the continued appraisal of teachers, including having them pursue postgraduate degrees. Emphasis will also be placed on Information Com-munication Technology (ICT), says Singh. To this extent, “Government will allocate resources to ensure that an additional 2,500 teachers are trained, and all of our secondary schools are equipped with computer laboratories before the end of 2014.”
The University of Guyana (UG), under this provision is set to receive $1.4 billion, $450 million of which is to be used to facilitate the offering of loans to students who are unable to pay cash to study.
Later this year, said Singh, students in far-off locations who wish to study at UG will be able to do so via an online degree programme “for the first time ever.” Last year government spent $50 million to get this programme going.
Singh also mentioned plans under the “(UG) Science and Technology Support initiative” to overhaul fourteen buildings in UG’s science and technology faculties. These buildings will be fitted with equipment to enhance the instructions given to students in these faculties, and the minister alluded to plans to commence a feasibility study towards building a “Centre for Excellence for the Study of Biodiversity.”
Singh also hailed the offering of Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) skills as important to ensuring the viability of young people, and said “this year we will expand occupational programmes to support the mining and hospitality industries.”