By next year the government is hoping to construct a technical and vocational institute in Region Three, Education Minister, Shaik Baksh said while addressing a gathering at the commissioning of the $82M Greenwich Park Primary School on Wednesday.
Speaking to an audience that included Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Charles Court, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. Compton Bourne and other officials, Baksh cited the fact that many children were not doing well in academics as the reason for the establishment of such an institution.
“Many children are not making it along the academic route”, he stated adding that this was a trend in the Caribbean.
The school commissioned on Wednesday is a concrete building which replaces an old wooden one and referring to it Baksh said that the government is interested in ensuring a good learning environment for the children. The Guyana Government, the Canadian International Deve-lopment Agency (CIDA) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)-funded project currently houses approximately 496 students from several communities in the East Bank Essequibo area. The old school building, commissioned in 1961 has since been demolished. According to the education minister nearly 16% of the national budget is now being utilized by the education sector. He said that the country had already achieved the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education and has some way to go to achieving universal secondary education. The education minister declared that this was a priority and it is hoped that this goal would be achieved within the next five years.
Lamenting that too many children were moving from primary school to secondary schools without adequate “literacy and numeracy” skills Baksh informed parents that from September a “new literacy methodology” would be implemented in schools. He called on parents to ensure their children attend and finish school while urging teachers to make an extra effort. “If you do so you will be becoming very patriotic”, he asserted. Baksh also spoke of resuscitating school libraries noting that “children must read more” and promised assistance to the school in acquiring books. He urged that full use of the school be made.
Court in a brief speech, meanwhile stated that one of the priorities of his country is to strengthen links with its western hemisphere neighbours, particularly the Carib-bean and he declared that in working towards this the amount of assistance given to the region would be doubled.
Meantime the Prime Minister, in expressing gratitude to CIDA and the CDB, noted that the money came from the taxes paid by citizens of the donor agencies’ countries. He said that local citizens should be ready to pay their taxes too so that development could occur. He noted that “we have been, quite rightly, focusing on material things” while adding that enough attention may have not been paid to the “spirit side”. He urged students to do better and give back.
Acting Headmistress of the school, Maureen Persaud in giving a vote of thanks pledged that the school will be cared and preserved. Speaking with Stabroek News shortly after, she expressed her pleasure at the building noting that new facilities namely a computer lab, a library and a home economics department previously unavailable in the old school were present in the new building. She stated that the old building was overcrowded, had a leaking roof, holes in the floor, was “shaky” and had harboured lots of termites and rodents while the yard flooded during heavy rains. The students began utilizing the building from October 22 and Persaud said that while they were pleased, the children had to be taught to care the building and not deface it. At present the school boasts three computers, which are not utilized by students for classes and the headmistress noted that more would have to be procured for this subject area to be taught. She said that the school plans to get in touch with former students, businesses and others to assist. Court had pledged assistance with regards to computers and the headmistress said that this offer would be taken up. Regarding the library she disclosed that furniture store Courts and the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry had pledged to donate some books while the school had received some from the Guyana Book Foundation. “We have the facilities, we will make full use of them”, she said.