Where are our tax dollars for education going?

Dear Editor,
Reading Stabroek News’ editorial titled “The state of our schools” (SN, September 13), I checked the 2011 budget where I found $24.3 billion Guyana dollars spent on education in 2011. That equals US$124 million. The PPP budgeted 6.37% of the 2011 budget for education. That placed Guyana at among the top 25 nations in the world in spending on education, higher than the USA. At roughly 190,000 school-age children in schools across Guyana, the PPP is spending approximately US$652.63 or $130,526 per schoolchild in 2011. By contrast, the USA spends 5.7% of its GDP on education at roughly $10,000 per student. However, each US student obtains roughly 21% of the US GDP per capita of $47,000 whereas each Guyanese student receives 26% of the GDP per capita.

Despite the Guyana government outspending the USA, every year when school opens, the saga of newly built schools falling apart, no running water, latrines for washrooms, dismal sanitation, poor maintenance, lack of teachers, no labs, no desks, cramped conditions and conditions greet the Guyanese people. A child died from falling into a school latrine. Yes, a school latrine. I know the PNC messed things up but after 19 years of staggering spending on education on a pool of students that has virtually stayed the same, where are our tax dollars for education really going? Where are they disappearing to? For they sure ain’t ending up in the proper education of our children.

The dropout rate in the ‘progress and development’ era of the PPP has been the highest ever in this country. As Stabroek News stated in its editorial, the Ministry of Education is quick to point to results. I have two questions for them. How many of those who achieved those results attended after-school lessons? How many of those who got those results attended private schools? With private schools popping up all over the country lessening the burden on the education ministry, we still have these problems greeting children on the very first day school reopens. The incompetents will say we feed schoolchildren and provide them with uniforms. That is a disgrace. It is a disgrace that people cannot afford to feed their own children in this country or buy them uniforms.

With all this PPP progress and development, more and more money is going towards feeding children whose parents are so crushed by poverty and killed by the 33% income tax and 16% VAT that they can’t feed their own children to send them off to get an education. No government  should be proud of this sickening kind of dependency. It removes people’s right to feed their own children from the sweat of their labour. People should feed and clothe their own children, not some government taking everything in taxes and giving a contract to a lucky guy to give some milk and biscuits to our children. A man must be able to earn enough in a country to open up a box of cereal and a bottle of milk to feed his kids in the morning before kissing them goodbye as they leave for school. Those in Pradoville I and II do it every morning but they see nothing wrong in making our children dependent on the government for a little milk and some biscuits.
The PPP has no game plan for education. Its game plan is to build things by giving big hefty contracts to the lucky few. We get lots of new buildings. Sugar factories, wharves, roads, schools, bridges, etc. Nobody to run them properly. An arm and a leg to use them (see Berbice Bridge).

They fall apart the next day. They are empty providing good homes for mice. They cost a fortune.

A happy handful is getting very rich in this country while harsh taxes are forcing many more into poverty. No wonder the cost of living is a nightmare. Our schools are no different. We might get another 100 brand spanking new schools next year. The condition of them and what happens in them is an entirely different matter for which the PPP really doesn’t care. You look at the new school from the outside and shut up is the philosophy.

Yours faithfully,
M Maxwell

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