The government’s $10,000 education grants for public school students will be available to all registered students, regardless of whether they attend school or not.
This is according to Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, who, during a consultation with relevant stakeholders on Thursday at the West Demerara Secondary School, said that the decision is fixed for now but may change in the coming year.
Guyana is the first country in this region where every single student will be entitled to a grant, Manickchand said. This is the first time that the programme will be run in Guyana.
However, concern was raised by a parent at the consultation who pointed out that though many children are on registers, they do not attend school.
“Right now we’re not tying the delivery of the grant to attendance this year because we did not say to you last year that your children had to go to school before you get this and I think it would be unfair for us to impose that on you now,” Manickchand responded. She continued, “But what you are saying there is something we will take into consideration in going forward with this grant and we may very well apply conditions such as you have to have X percent attendance or a medical to show why you did not go to school before you can access it.”
However, she said, such a decision would require a number of further consultations with parents and teachers before its implementation.
She further pointed out that the grant is $10,000 per child, not per family. “It’s $10,000 per child and that really will come in handy as a little help. So even though you all pretty much said at the beginning of this that we are doing better now than we were 10 years ago, we know that this will come in as a good assistance to help us and partner with us to educate your children,” she explained.
Manickchand further said the grants will not be available until about mid-October and not the first week of September when school reopens.
“We have to collect all the registers from our thousand schools in September, give that to either the banks or Western Union or whoever we’re using, and have them enter it into their systems. We have to verify that these are the students. So you’re not going to get this on the first of September when school opens…It’s going to be more towards mid-October, by the time we hand in the registers and so on, that you will get it,” the minister said. The delay, she said, comes from the fact that many children are not on the registers, including about 15% of Grade One students. The ministry, she indicated, needs time to better organise these registers.
Stakeholders were also given the opportunity to raise any other concerns they may have on matters such as the automatic promotion, poor pass rates in Mathematics and English as well as the availability of remedial classes to students.
Parents were asked just how they would like to receive their grants and, after indicating that they would prefer cash instead of vouchers that could be spent at accredited stores, the majority of those present said they would prefer to collect their monies through the bank instead of the post office or money transfer services, such as Western Union and MoneyGram.
However, Manickchand said using banks would subject parents to tougher verification processes. At least one bank, she said, informed her that persons who did not have accounts with it would require two proofs of address before they can access an account.
The ministry has carried out various consultations across the country and in each the responses vary on just how these grants will be delivered.