Lack of coordination between Regional Education Officers (REdOs) and Regional Executive Officers (REOs), Education Minister Shaik Baksh said, has been affecting the delivery of education in several regions.
REdOs and REOs from the ten administrative regions as well as other education officials were reprimanded by the minister yesterday. They gathered at the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) for a bi-annual discussion. The Ministry of Education (MoE) is responsible for REdOs while REOs report to the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. Local Government and Regional Development Minister Kellawan Lall also addressed the issue.
Baksh said he had already visited some of the regions with existing issues and it is his intention to visit all the regions by the end of this school year. He described the problem as “a gap in the linkages between Regional Administration and Regional Education Departments”. Some regions have been performing while others are extremely laid back.
Among the programmes affected by lack of cooperation between these officials is the School Feeding Programme. It was developed to feed nursery students and those in Grades 1 and 2 at the primary level. Currently it is not functioning as it should and many regions have not been collecting their supplies.
There is also the issue of book distribution in Region Two, the minister said. The MoE received a letter about this issue and was later told that there was no vehicle to collect the books. Collecting the books is the primary responsibility of the regional administration.
The regional administrations are also expected to cooperate with education officials as well in terms of maintaining the schools. Baksh warned that the next time inspectors or government officials visit a school and everything is not up to standard, disciplinary action will be taken.
Letters, the minister stated, are already being sent out to those officials who have not been performing. After the third letter is sent to the same employee then it will be forwarded to the Public Service Commission.
“We can’t go to the Cabinet and say that,” the minister said referring to the various issues.
Getting educational materials to the schools is a very important task, Baksh explained, and has a direct effect on the ability to deliver education.
In the end, he stressed, the failure to deliver educational material will be blamed on the body responsible for the education system.
He also said that the MoE is awaiting approval for the hiring of administration officers to manage each region. After these are hired, Baksh warned education officials, they will have no excuse to avoid carrying out their duties.
Collecting information from private schools has also been a problem. This process has taken longer than necessary and the information is slowly beginning to trickle in. The collection of information, the minister said, is very important. Reports have to be generated and submitted to Cabinet and for assessments to be made as to where Guyana is in terms of reaching the Millennium Development Goals.
In addition to the nutrition programme others implemented by MoE have also been suffering. Among these are TVET (Technical and Vocational Education Training), the Information Technology Programme, the Grade 2, 4 and 6 Assessments, the Literacy Programme and the Education Management Programme.
Head teachers, he said, are expected to manage their respective schools and ensure that all the MoE programmes are put into practice. Soon, the MoE will be evaluating 60 of the poorest performing schools (five from each region and Georgetown).
The Regional Education Departments, he said, and teachers will have to sign a contract committing to the schools’ performance. If any school fails to perform then the head teacher will be held responsible and will be dismissed. The MoE, its minister said, will start its campaign by attacking the leadership.
Meanwhile, Minister Lall noted that 50% of what happens in the MoE does not involve his ministry. The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development is responsible for the maintenance of schools and other related tasks.
Over the years, Lall said, he has been trying to get REOs to look more at the quality of education rather than the physical aspect of it.
There is a need for more coordination, he stressed. Placement of teachers, movement, training and promotion are all important aspects, Lall said, which need more attention as well. The Local Government Ministry and MoE, according to Lall, share a good relationship and are often discussing more ways in which to coordinate.
In fact, one area which they have continuously agreed on is that more emphasis must be placed on community based education. Often, Lall said, a head teacher overlooks the importance of community involvement in the education system. Education takes place both within and outside the school, he added and members of the community play an important role in educating children; therefore, they must be allowed into the school systems. At the end of secondary school, Lall said, a student must be prepared for life.
Lall also opined that persons who live in and on the outskirts of the city do not fully appreciate the challenges which some must face in the system. He recalled meeting a teacher from an interior location who had to walk two hours to and from school every day.
The education system, Lall stressed, will not get better unless there is cooperation. This is a message he intends to spread throughout the regions. He further said that more sessions like yesterday’s forum need to be held. Lall suggested that six more sessions, identifying issues and possible solutions, be conducted and said his ministry will stand the cost.