Literacy, school-feeding programmes to get attention

$20.4 billion has been allocated for the education sector in this year’s budget with $16.8 billion for operational current expenditure and $3.6 billion for capital projects.

This includes $400 million for the construction of two new technical and vocational training centres in Regions Three and Five.
Construction will commence later this year and the institutions will benefit from updated training aids and equipment, while identified priority courses at seven other technical institutions with a current enrolment of over 4000 will benefit similarly, Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh said at the 2009 Budget presentation yesterday.

He told the National Assembly that the attainment of a higher level of functional literacy is a national concern which drives both policy makers and parents and in this light, the national literacy programme has been allocated $251 million, in an effort to accelerate the implementation of the programme, which targets poor performers in primary schools, out-of-school youth and the general adult population.

He said that consistent with the national policy of achieving universal secondary education, several initiatives will be taken to ensure that every child is afforded access and a decision has been taken to introduce into 40 schools this year, a general six-year programme, focusing mainly on English, including remedial reading, and Mathematics. He said this will cater for children, who graduate from the primary school system with inadequate literacy and numeracy skills. Further, $50 million has been earmarked for the expansion of the Basic Competency Certificate Programme to schools and practical instruction centres, which will improve the lives of more than 2,000 youths.

The finance minister declared that boosting the attendance and the attentiveness of children in schools is important if investments in the education sector is to bear fruit and $710 million has been allocated for the national school feeding programme, which will benefit 100 primary schools in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine, where attendance has already increased between five to ten percent as well as other targeted schools in coastal regions.
Meantime, $626 million has been budgeted to support the operations of the two University of Guyana (UG) campuses, of which $582 million is programmed to finance recurrent operations while $44 million has been allotted for the upgrading of laboratory facilities, procurement of books and furnishings.  A further $450 million has also been allocated to facilitate the issuance of loans to students of both campuses though it was noted that a number of student loans have remained unpaid several years after the beneficiaries have graduated. This is a concern for government and “concrete steps” will be taken this year to improve the rate of repayment of student loans.

Further, $2.5 billion has been allocated for the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of nursery, primary and secondary schools countrywide and upgrading of other education facilities. This will see the construction of two new nursery schools at Bath and Cumberland, five new primary schools at De Hoop, Tuschen, Belle West, Parfaite Harmonie and Semonie; two new secondary schools at Hope and Number Eight villages and rehabilitation and maintenance being done at over 300 schools countrywide.

Additionally, $160 million has been budgeted for editing, reviewing and printing of modules, training of staff and piloting of the modules at the five Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) in-service centres at Rose Hall, Linden, Georgetown, Anna Regina and Vreed-en-Hoop. This is for CPCE’s Secondary School Academic Certificate Programme, aimed at the reduction of untrained teachers in the school system.

The minister had earlier noted that this year represents the first year of the updated five-year National Education Strategic Plan which identifies as priorities, quality education, universal secondary education, technical and vocational education, inclusive education, school health and nutrition, teacher education and the development of managerial capacity within the sector. Supervision and monitoring of schools will also be enhanced and will include assessments on the quality of teaching, school leadership and management adherence to the national curriculum delivery timetable while focus will also be placed on information and communication technology in schools, he stated.

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