She made the call during Monday’s budget debate where she stated that a recent research involving children entering the nursery level revealed less than heartening findings.
“We found that the things children should know at three, six (three years, six months) like basic shapes and numbers and recognizing and being able to recite their ABCs, basic biographical data … we found that only 32 percent of our children knows this and that for us is a bit worrying,” she said.
According to the minister, the children could be better prepared if parents would work with them at home. She added that the ministry had a role to play in this mainly by telling the parents what their children need to know and how they could use their natural environment to teach.
“It’s not buying charts and gadgets … for example if you have to teach colours then the grass is green and the sky is blue, you don’t have to buy a chart for that, bring the red bucket, here is mommy’s orange dress,” Manickchand explained.
Meanwhile, the minister also disclosed that a nursery reader has been produced locally and copies would be given to nursery school children. The $32.3B allocated for education this year will also cover text books for the basic primary subjects while a reader is also to be written for that level.
“We’re presently writing our own readers for Grades One to Six and workbooks, they’re going to be called Atlantic Readers. We believe they’re going to be the envy of the Caribbean, they’re closely aligned with international literacy standards and guidelines,” Manickchand stated.
She added that with this year’s budget they would also be able to offer Mathematics, English and Science text books to every secondary school child while every secondary school would be equipped with a computer laboratory by year end.
The opposition MPs, with the exception of APNU’s Chief Whip and Shadow Education Minister Amna Ally, had walked out of the chambers when Manickchand rose to speak. The move was in protest at her refusal to apologise to former APNU MP Jaipaul Sharma following a comment she made last week. Speaker Raphael Trotman had initially banned her from contributing to the debate until she apologised but he later rescinded it. Sharma has since resigned citing the incident as his reason.
Ally in her presentation challenged the minister on the issue of computer labs in the schools stating that several of those already in place were not functioning.
She said the lab at the Parika – Salem Secondary School was one while the computers at the Patentia School were obsolete and there were poor electricity connections.
“How useful will it be to have these labs and no teachers? The opposition certainly welcomes IT labs … but we of the APNU cannot sit idly by and allow the incompetencies of this government to prevail,” Ally stated.
The APNU MP also decried the $1.4B earmarked for the University of Guyana as ridiculous.
“The University of Guyana cannot pay its electricity bills, they don’t have proper chalkboards, they have poor toilet facilities and inadequate furniture. What a shame Mr. Speaker, in our only major tertiary facility in the capital.”
Ally also chided the government on the application process at the institution. She acknowledged the introduction of online applications process but stated that the older system should still prevail to serve those without internet access.
She also criticised the announced $10,000 grant for the parents of children in the public school system saying it was an attempt to “hoodwink” the public.
“Surely the parents of our children would welcome this money but sir let me point out the following; this government has gotten this country into a depressing situation and any little pittance parents will use to fill a hole for survival,” Ally declared.
Some $2B has been budgeted for the initiative this year with the government saying it would help parents to send their children to school thereby boosting attendance.