April 16, 2012
Ms. Ally: Thank you Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members of this House, I rise to make my contribution to this debate under the theme: Remaining on Course, United in Purpose, Prosperity for All. Before I proceed I want to join with my fellow Parliamentarians who spoke before me in welcoming and congratulating all of the new Members who have joined this National Assembly.
Before I continue with the presentation, I want to point out a few things. When I listen to some of the comrades of the House, one would believe that history began only in 1992. Sir, I want to gently remind the Hon. Members Dr. Vindhya Persaud, Dr. Jennifer Westford, in absentia, and Hon. Member Mr. Norman Whittaker that the work today is premised on the infrastructure laid by the People’s National Congress as well as opportunities offered by its many programmes which benefited young people like you and me.
Secondly, when Hon. Member Jaffarally spoke, he told untruths about the road repairs on the East Bank Berbice, Region 6. I suggest that despite the Hon. Member is from that Region, he confers with his Minister, Hon. Member Mr. Robeson Benn, who is the authority as to what the programme is for the East Bank Berbice Road.
Mr. Speaker, when I look back at previous themes of previous Budgets, I see, Together Building Tomorrow’s Guyana Today; I see, Building a Modern and Prosperous Guyana; I see, Working Together – Reinforcing Resilience; but I can see, in 2013, “Picking up the Pieces for Shattered Egos”. Hon. Member Dr. Singh will not present that one.
As the Hon. Minister delivered his presentation, I wondered whether it was a case of an animal going to the slaughter house. Or was it no vision? Or was it sheer arrogance? I wonder if the 2011 programme and expenditures were truly evaluated to serve as a basis for staying on that course for prosperity and development. Are we happy with the expenditure of the $24.3 billion spent on the National Strategic Plan? Are we comfortable that the US $4.2 billion spent on teacher’s education fully achieved the objectives? Are we satisfied that the $919 million spent to have trained teachers by 2013 has underscored the results that we are looking for? And, finally, are we satisfied that the $769 million spent on the University of Guyana (UG) Turkeyen and Tain Campuses has prepared the educators in the various fields to aid the prosperity for all? If the answer is yes, I submit that there was no value for money invested in the education system in Guyana.
As I look at the Budget for 2012, I honestly believe that if those plans come clean of arrogance, with improved management capabilities, professionalism, value for teachers’ time and resourcefulness, we will see unity in purpose which will yield prosperity. I refer to page 40 of the Budget presentation:
“This Government recognises that education is a prerequisite to the successful development of a nation, and as such we will continue to respond accordingly to the educational needs of our people in order to improve their quality of life. To this end, Mr. Speaker, $26.5 billion has been allocated for the education sector in 2012.”
First I must say that that is a great strength of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), but that is a figure with no meaning. A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) welcomes the proposed expenditure but we demand value for money. We demand that the beneficiaries must be the nation’s children. We demand that moneys are spent for what they are intended. We demand that there must be adequate and relevant programmes for our children. We demand that there must be proper accountability and openness of all monetary transactions. We demand that our teachers must be rewarded with improved wages and better working conditions; no 5% or 8% is sufficient. Do not hide behind the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), I warn. We demand that the Ministry of Education must focus on professionalism, skills and techniques and stop cronyism. We demand proper personnel allocation and evaluative measures to be implemented in all Ministry of Education projects.
I will now turn my attention to a few areas of focus that is considered very crucial in the education sector, as illustrated in the Budget.
The Budget presentation alludes to various aspects of the delivery of education. I note, though, the objective of Education Delivery is to effectively and efficiently co-ordinate, monitor and manage the delivery of education at the Nursery, Primary, and Secondary levels, and at the Technical and Vocational Institutions in accordance with National Educational Policies and curricula. And one of the strategies outlined is to ensure that qualified staff and teachers are distributed across all levels of school as well as all technical institutions.
Today I will not speak about the lack of focus of the Government but rather to underscore that the focus of this Government is to:
(a) Acquire the relevant international funds to splash on - and one only has to go to the Auditor General’s Report to validate this statement;
(b) To boast about the largest Budget ever and how much is allocated for education; and
(c) To quantify, in monetary terms, the amount of money allocated for education without measuring real achievements.
Delivery has not been forthcoming in the way we would like it to and that is why we still face the dilemma of poor English and Mathematics results - and more of this later. It is because this Government does not stay on course with its projections. For years, in this National Assembly, I have been speaking of curriculum guides for schools and today, in 2012, the problem prevails. My latest information is that the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) is now editing some of the curriculum guides. I ask the question: how could the teachers in schools be ready to deliver education if the basic curriculum guides are not available? Well in case you are slow learners, let me tell you that English and Mathematics do not start in the 10th and 11th Grades. It starts from Nursery through Primary, and if one falls down there it is difficult to pick up in the 11th Grade.
The Budget boasts about fulfilling the percentage of trained teachers in keeping with indicators of the National Strategic Plan. The practical situation is across the country; in all ten Administrative Regions, many schools do not have adequate teachers. Just skip across to Regions 2, 3, and 7, just to mention a few, and do an analysis. Where would any Government in its rightful mind have one teacher to one hundred children of varying abilities and levels? So the Government must not come here and “pampazet” about the billions spent on education when the nation’s children continue to suffer.
Training and Development
There is no doubt that Training and Development is vital in this sector. I feel very proud when I read in the Budget speech that enrolment for the Associate Degree at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) is approximately 900 students. Annually, too, the University of Guyana produces approximately 5,500 students. I urge, though, that we do not necessarily benefit from mass production and that we must not lose sight of quality production; we must not focus on how much fees we can garner but whether we are fulfilling the variables that will give us a quality product. Many of our teachers are trained but migrate thereafter because our conditions and salaries are not attractive. Why can we not recognise this? Without teachers we cannot have other professions.
Finally, in Training and Development, we must ensure that we meet the needs of our students; we must meet the needs of our teachers; and we must develop opportunities that meet the needs of the larger society. We must ask the question: why again in 2011 is poor performance reflected in the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) examinations?
Literacy and Numeracy
For a number of years, the question of Literacy and Numeracy has been receiving injections for improved performances. One will recall that it started some years ago with the Basic Education Access, Management and Support (BEAMS) Project, where lots of money was floating about. And then there was the end of the funding, consequently the end of the Project. However, 12 of these trainers were retrained and they were working in the Regions. One would have thought that the Ministry would have been serious to address the Literacy and Numeracy problem and so it would have given them the support for continuity. Instead, the Ministry decided that it was going to frustrate these trainers, so it called them together and requested of them to pull the Region they have to be posted to – and I mean ‘pull’ as if it were a raffle. The end result was that the Ministry managed to frustrate ten out of the 12 persons who were remaining. If a Region 2 person pulled Region 6, that trainer could not have put in place all the necessary and adequate arrangements to go and do the work. Because of this, the Ministry is left with two trainers. So I do not know where this continuity is going to take place – two trainers. Is the Ministry really serious? Does it really want improvement in Literacy and Numeracy?
We have heard the Minister speaking about pilot project to improve English and Mathematics in schools where some $85.7 million has been earmarked to finance this project. This is nothing new! During the tenure of this very Government, a magazine called, The Reformer was released in December 2002 while the Hon. Dale Bisnauth was Minister of Education and the Secondary School Reform Project (SSRP) was implemented. Hon. Minister, I urge you to read page 15 of that magazine. If you do not have one, I can lend you mine. In the content, the reasons for poor performance were outlined and the recommendations were also given. Because of a time constraint, I will refer, in gist, to one recommendation which speaks to frequent monitoring, continuous assessment and practical strategies, just to mention a few.
The Ministry, in its early years, had two objectives: initially, to identify and treat early deficiencies; and actually, to provide continuous assessment. The situation analysis reflected no systematic approach to address the first objective, but the second one is fully implemented. So while it is good to do something to improve the poor results, let me recommend, even though it may appear to be long term that we start with the very young mind. Kenrick Hunte and Geoffrey Smith are professionals who have investigated the minds of our young people and have given authorship to them.
I said earlier in my remarks that we demand value for money. According to the Budget, $47 million has been expended on the educational television broadcasting service. This unit is clearly not equipped to provide a 24-hour service, on television, that addresses the issues confronting the school system today. This service performs the role of a regular television channel broadcasting programmes developed for the market and certainly creates awareness of events in education. The initial objective was to provide resources needed to support curriculum delivery in schools.
The situation analysis shows that we already have existing audio programmes that are tailored to assist delivery of curriculum in primary schools, e.g. the Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) Mathematics and broadcast to schools programmes that cover a wide range of subjects. I wonder how much of the $47 million went to where it did not belong.
The National Strategic Plan
The 2008-2013 National Strategic Plan attracts a tidy chunk of the Budget. It is acknowledged that this is an ongoing Programme, but $24.3 billion was allocated in 2011 to this Programme.
Illustrated in the National Strategic Plan is to equip all secondary schools and 50% primary schools with computer laboratories. According to the Ministry of Education, 80 secondary schools and 60 primary schools have so far been equipped. It is worthy to note that according to the Hon. Member, Mr. Jaffarally, 20 out of those 60 went to Region 6. I wonder how the other 40 have been distributed to the other nine Regions.
While I do not want to disabuse the Minister’s mind, I wish to request of her, a circulation to this National of Assembly, the list of all of its members. The situation analysis reflects that firstly, a computer laboratory cannot be a school with a few computers because no school has few children. Secondly, in Linden at least in five primary schools the equipment is non-functional because the complete systems are not available. Rather, in some of the schools, the computers are still in boxes. Thirdly, the absence of Information Technology (IT) teachers looms largely. Fourthly, in Linden again, Region 10, five secondary schools were earmarked for computer labs. I ask how many are functioning. There are problems and more problems; more technicians for the schools that the computers are given to. The computers are not having optimum functions, et cetera. Is it because it is Region 10? In Region 5 the school ranking eighth was the first to have a few computers. There again, they are not working and there is no attempt to get them working. Yet, we boast about these computer laboratories.
What did the Ministry do with the money for this project? The July 4th, 2011 Kaieteur News reported the 1,400 computers are to be supplied for these computer labs. Are these the same computers that are still in the boxes? Are these the same computers minus parts? Are these the same computers with no power supply? Are these the computers from Digital Technology where approximately $300 million of taxpayer’s money was involved? I certainly cannot ask Kaieteur News that, Hon. Member Ganga Persaud, you need to tell me that! How can our education system be enhanced with the mess which this Government has created?
Finally, on the question on the large sum of money allocated for this project. I call on the current Minister, current because she was not there last year as that Minister, to come clean and produce in this National Assembly the list of the 300 trainee teachers who should have received laptops before the end of 2011 as was reported.
I now turn briefly to the University of Guyana… [Ms. Backer: That is whole day.] Page 41 of the Budget refers to over $900 million dollars allocated to the University of Guyana. It must be noted that the University of Guyana, as I said before, produces about 5,500 students annually. If you used to listen a little bit more you would have been better off Hon. Member Rohee.
Secondly, the University is made to survive on a student fee of 127,000 per student. Low and behold I heard a few nights ago mutterings by the Private Sector Commission, the mouthpiece of the Government, that they feel it may be necessary to triple the University fees. I submit that APNU rejects this. It will only cause increased hardship to our young people.
As I was saying, I heard a few nights ago mutterings by the Private Sector Commission, the mouthpiece of the Government, that they feel that maybe it will be necessary to triple the University fees. I submit comrades that APNU rejects this position. This will only cause increased hardship for our young people.
Thirdly, with the UG mega budget the Office of the Pro Chancellor has to be financed. The Pro Chancellor’s job is primarily to filter the PPP/C propaganda.
Fourthly, remuneration of UG lecturers is so low that it results in mass migration of lecturers. The University of Guyana, a tertiary institution, must be addressed. There are too many problems, staffers, management, UG Council, people losing their jobs because of their political affiliation among others. I urge the Minister to take a hard look at improving the conditions at the University of Guyana and to close the door to any harsh conditions on our students by increasing their fees.
In term of technical and vocational training you will recall at the last Budget presentation, 2011, I was very critical of the Government’s approach and existence of the technical and vocational training. I am harkened to know that from the last to this present time efforts have been made to address my concerns and recommendations, this is a good sign. I have seen and read various reports for the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council and I would like to urge that efforts be made to correct the grey areas in these institutions. Timing does not permit me to address all of these concerns, but I will attempt to highlight a few.
The education system, despite the reported high spending in TEC VOC (Technical and Vocational Training) still places too much emphasis on academic achievements. TEC VOC is not valued high enough. Firstly, there is no one who is qualified in technical education to manage a technical programme run by the Ministry. At the moment a retired Assistant Chef Education Officer (ACEO) Secondary is in charge of the technical education. [An Hon. Member: He is not qualified.] If you had known you would not have even said “he”. It is against this backdrop that I bring to this forum that the training institutions in Mahaicony and Leonora are not conducting technical programmes of any significance. In each institution over 200 students are enrolled, but only about 70 now attend. Parents and students are frustrated of the institution not yet staffed and some of the much need equipment not yet installed. The few teachers employed, note I did not say instructors, resort to teaching secondary school English and Math in an attempt to keep the students occupied. Are these institutes therefore serving the purposes for which they were intended? Certainly not! Let me remind Hon. Members that these two institutions cost nearly $1 billion, and the interest is not there to utilise them for the right reasons. Where is the value for money?
Secondly, in the Budget we speak of mass sum allocated for teachers training. Yet, budgets come and budgets go, and we cannot get trained personnel to conduct training in these TEC VOC institutions. Many of our teachers who teach technical subjects are merely graduates from the secondary school system with no practical experience in industry. Hence, the courses offered at Secondary Competency Certificate Programme (SCCP) receive a theoretical treatment and modicum of practicals with a few and obsolete pieces of equipment.
I would like to give just a little recommendation to prepare our personnel for teacher education and training programmes. It requires not only theoretical constructs, but much dependence on on-the-job training in industry.
Our TEC VOC programme must also be consistent with those aspects of Government programmes. Noticeably absent is a programme to train personnel for extractive industries in oil, manganese, et al.
Finally on this note, many of the principles and practices that inform the present education system are out of date. The science programmes need to get special attention as well as those of technology. The impacts of development in computer and information technologies, environmental science, micro electronics and others challenge to develop the capabilities of Guyanese.
I am taking a look at education across the country now. Education must be for the Guyanese society in both rural and urban areas. In so doing, we must take into consideration culture, physical landscape and other factors that would enhance our education system. Only recently we had to highlight problems with basic toilet facilities in the Port Kaituma Region 1 area. What bothers me is that when you highlight such problems you are told that it is not the central Ministry of Education that is responsible it is the RDC or Local Government Ministry. May I recommend early that there will be a collaborative effort or approach between the Local Government Ministry and the Ministry of Education, because it is the same Government and they do not share anything? This will avoid the blame shifting between the Ministry of Education and the Local Government. Our children must not suffer because they are not sure who to blame.
In Region 2 our children in the lower Pomeroon are deprived from a secondary education because the Government cannot make adequate transportation arrangements for those children to come to the school in Charity. It must be noted that the cost for one child to travel to Charity is $1000 daily. Imagine if there are three or four children coming from the same home. Could the parents afford the money, especially since this Government has taken the cost of living to a hilarious hilt? I raised this matter with the RDC Chairman in Region 2 as well as the Minister of Education, but I am told that they have to wait until the dormitory at Charity is completed. Meanwhile, tragedy occurs. The Minister nor the RDC Chairman of Region 2 nor they together cannot influence to make shift arrangements for those poor children. I wonder if it is because traditionally the lower Pomeroon votes do not come in favour of the PPP/C.
At the Ulelli Primary School, the Headmaster has to cover with plastic to sleep during the rainy season, and this has been going on for years! Yet, the Minister of Finance comes to tell us in his Budget presentation and I quote, “$2.8 billion was spent on construction, extension, rehabilitation, and maintenance of our schools and other education facilities countrywide”.
In Region 3 parents had to resort to picketing before work could have been done at the Uitvlugt Primary School. Region 4 poor planning and renovations were never completed for an on time return to school. There was picketing by students, teachers and parents in order for the Ministry to provide furniture for students at the Golden Grove Secondary School and many other schools. I have already mention grey areas of Regions 5, 7, and 10 in other areas if my presentation. Hence, I wish to look at Region 8.
By way of questions and answers some education issues were brought to this floor in the National Assembly. As you would know, twenty three pupils of the Paramakatoi Secondary School and from the dormitory were expelled. What is interesting for APNU is the programme which the Ministry had for these delinquents, or is it that we still leave school children to the wolves. That is recipe to fuel crime. Let us not give up on those children.
Finally, I call on the Minister of Education to investigate into allegations of boys’ molestation in Region 9. I dare say if it is good enough to take handouts there, it must be equally good to protect those boys and girls from being molested.
In conclusion, there are a lot of other areas I wish to speak on such as universal secondary education, the remediation programme, the issue of the no-child-left-behind programme, the issue of monitoring and evaluation, the EFA FDI programme lessons among others, but because of a time constraint I will not be able to do so. However, in conclusion I wish to make the following recommendations.
Firstly, the main issue of monitoring and evaluation is lacking. Hence, it does not give a time assessment to inform future plans. Secondly, NCERD must be put under a microscope; you need quality not quantity. Thirdly, stop the syndrome of “jobs for the boys” cronyism and work with professionals, seek to train them and give opportunities to unveil their talents. Special considerations must be given for increased emoluments and condition for teachers. Here, I reiterate the call by APNU’s Hon. Member Carl Greenidge to increase the salary of teachers by 20%. I know the Minister will come with an episode of the Guyana Teacher’s Union Memorandum of Understanding (GTU MoU), but if you read the Kaieteur News of Monday 9th April 2012 you see what the assessment of the President of the GTU was for the non-interest of teachers generally who did not attend the conference. Even the MoU that you may want to refer to is plagued with a magnitude of deficiencies. I call on the Government to restore the subvention for the Critchlow Labour College if you are serious about our young people. If the money allocated for the Ministry of Education is used strictly for the purpose intended, and with no diversion of deals, certainly there will be an improved system.
Finally, last Friday, Hon. Member Clement Rohee spoke of the Tsunami. I want to say to the Hon. Member that indeed the Tsunami is coming. The Tsunami is coming with raged and turbulent waters. When it arises it will see the PPP/C out of office and this country will usher in good governance in the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. So, let Mr. Rohee know that we welcome that Tsunami.
To conclude, I also call on all of our educators in whatever section your knowledge and skills are being utilised to consider having a good and improved education system in Guyana, and we must work towards achieving this. I thank you. [Applause]