Dr. Henry Jeffrey has again ventured into troubled waters. He criticized the PPP/C administration for making available a grant of ten thousand dollars ($10,000) to parents of children who attend the public schools on the ground that “the budget lacks the type of rigour associated with such transfer schemes.”
As a former Minister of Education under the PPP administration Jeffrey ought to know that when it comes to financial assistance to send children to school and to provide for their educational needs no assistance can be considered too great especially those with more than one child to send to school.
It is in that context the ten thousand dollars per child has to be seen and understood. Experience in several countries has demonstrated that assistance to parents either in cash or in kind have impacted positively in terms of student enrollment rates and in performance levels.
Instead of an across-the-board disbursement of the funds, Dr. Jeffrey suggested that a means test should have been administered to determine only cases in need and where the impact is more likely to result in behavioural changes especially as it relates to school attendance and performance levels.
While on the surface the position taken may have some merit, past experience in trying to set up elaborate mechanisms to undertake means testing have not been encouraging since a disproportionate amount of the allocated sum is spent on administrative costs which in addition to the high costs involved also have room for all manner of financial improprieties. It is partly for this reason that the PPP/C administration had taken the decision years ago to abolish the means test as it relates to the payment of Old Age Pension.
It would seem that nothing that the current administration does will suffice to earn the credit of some people in our society. These are the people who have an agenda that is biased and prejudiced against the current PPP/C administration. There was a time when the entire education and health care infrastructure was in a state of advanced decay. Our children were underperforming not because of any deficiency on their part but because of a rundown system of education delivery.
Today, under the PPP/C our students are once again topping the Caribbean at the CXC examinations. The top fliers are no longer limited to a few Georgetown schools but there is a much better spread of the results throughout the country.
It is not by accident or coincidence that students from two Essequibo schools topped the CXC examinations, namely the Anna Regina Multilateral School and the Abram Zuil Secondary School. Rather, it is the result of the several interventions made by the current administration to upgrade the quality of education delivery. It is also an indication that the budgetary emphasis made to the education sector is paying the right kinds of dividends.
Instead of being critical and negative of what the administration is doing, the interests of the Guyanese people would be served if those who only look for faults can come up with better and more constructive ideas on the way forward for this country. As the saying goes, those who only look for faults can find nothing else.
Dr. Jeffrey seems to fall into this category of fault finders.
Rudolph C.G. Williams