Last Updated on Tuesday, 6 December 2016, 13:26 by Denis Chabrol
With 17% of $250B in budget 2017 allocated to the education sector, Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine announced in the national assembly a new medical school for the University of Guyana as well as ten new counselling rooms in secondary schools.
The schools identified include Cummings Lodge, Richard Ishmael, St. Mary’s, Lodge Community, South Ruimveldt, Tutorial High, Dolphin Secondary, East Ruimveldt Multilateral, Tucville and Charlestown secondary schools.
At the University of Guyana, we are currently finalizing the construction of a new 300-seat lecture theatre as well as a new student services building.
“We will be commencing the construction of a new school of medicine on campus,” Dr Roopnaraine continued, “as well as – under the Yesu Persaud endowment – a facility for clinical services attached to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.”
These are but a few measures identified by Dr Roopnaraine for 2017.
Holding to the constant shift in technology, the Education Ministry hopes to partner with the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) in an attempt to reduce the usage and cost of electricity at schools.
“GEA has conducted energy assessments at 29 secondary schools across Guyana and has conducted energy saving awareness exercises at 3 schools in Georgetown,” Dr Roopnaraine told the House during his budget speech.
“Our education system is in a crisis,” Dr Roopnaraine told the House as he called for an “evidence-based intervention into stemming this situation and adequately retooling this sector for the invaluable role it is to play in our development.”
Following the recently concluded Commission of Inquiry into the education sector, Dr Roopnaraine said, “without prejudice to the recommendations of that report, there are certain preliminary presumptions that we can make – indeed that we have to make – with regard to improving service delivery in the sector and the budget for 2017 has been crafted with these in mind.”
“We are not only confronted with a plethora of new areas of knowledge, but an almost equally dazzling array of ways in which to learn them,” Dr Roopnaraine said on the $337M budgeted for the Programme for Emergency Education Reform (PEER) initiative.
Speaking more to the PEER programme, the Education Minister said, “the PEER initiative will focus heavily on improving math scores through comprehensive diagnosis of current constraints, methodology review, and the recruitment of a cadre specialists for targeted interventions.”
He cited the work of NCERD in the core areas of Curriculum Development, Special Needs Education Training and Awareness, Literacy, and ICT integration.
“Even as we push forward with a strong STEM programme,” Dr Roopnaraine said, “we will not lose sight of the important role that arts education has to play in creating a well-rounded, civic-minded student and in laying the educational foundation for our future creative leaders.”
He said in 2016 there was a sum decrease in students enrolling in the expressive arts, sports education accounted for the vast majority of that increase while visual arts saw a worrying trend in decreased enrollments.
For the coming year, the Ministry will focus on that decline in hopes that there will be training of 132 teachers in multiple visual arts disciplines and across more than half of the education districts. “We will also continue to enhance our teacher training programme in music, drama and dance, and will equip another three schools with steel bands, bring the total so far to around 24.”
The Education Minister praised the 2017 allocation of over $3.5 billion on the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of schools, teachers’ quarters and other buildings.
“I do not expect unanimity,” Dr Roopnaraine concluded, “nor do I expect an absence of strident critique. I do however expect that whatever criticisms are made will be done so from an informed perspective and in good faith.”
Opposition MP Dr Frank Anthony, who spoke after Roopnaraine, challenged the Education Minister’s failure to reference the declining Mathematics and English grades among primary and secondary students.
“I would have liked to hear a little bit more on what concrete steps to be taken to alleviate these problems,” Dr Anthony said, “if we don’t get to concrete solutions, we would not solve the problem of mathematics and english in our country.”
Dr Anthony further asked for a report on the position of the University of Guyana Medical School, which has had some issues with accreditation of the years.