With five days until the new school year, the Ministry of Education is hoping to complete repairs so that all schools will be open in time.
Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Lovell Francis said yesterday that “a lot” of money was spent to execute 190 projects in schools, the most ever undertaken. In an interview with reporters at Naparima College, San Fernando following the closing ceremony for the Principal Leadership Series, Francis said he has been visiting their project sites and is satisfied with the progress. Although he admitted that some projects will not finish in time, he gave an assurance that it will not hamper the opening of those schools.
"It is always our intention, but you know in this country something always happens. Just last week, we’ve had one or two issues. I’ve literally had to run to schools so I don’t want to say that all schools will be opened. It is our intention that all school open. It is our plan for all schools open. We are working toward all schools opening. On the first day of school, we will see for sure,” Francis said.
Among the schools receiving significant work is Carapichaima West Secondary School, where several classrooms were damaged by fire. As for school constructions that were halted in 2015 and before, contractors are meeting with consultants to restart those projects. Francis said some of those projects are close to completion, such as the Santa Flora Government Primary School, San Juan Boys and Girls RC and Reform Hindu Primary School. However, he could not say when they will be finished. As for Princes Town Presbyterian #2 Primary School, officials were seeking a building to house some of the students.
Responding to some parents' concern about the high costs of textbooks, Francis said he empathised with them. Years ago, the government began assisting parents with textbooks, however, he believes it is time to replace textbooks with e-books. It is one of the initiatives the ministry plans to examine as he said it make schooling more effective. He added that it can also reduce the burden of students carrying heavy schoolbags.
"It has been something we’ve been talking about. We understand the cost of textbooks is high. I empathise with the parents who have to buy textbooks. But then again, I am from a generation where it was normal that parents buy textbooks and it was normal that parents invest in their children’s education. So I have no problems with the State assisting in this. I also have no problems with the parents investing in their children's education," Francis said.
Apart from infrastructure and technology, the Ministry is also focusing on training teachers and principals as they hope to improve on academics and the social culture within schools. The Principal Leadership Series was a 10-day training programme for over 450 secondary school principals and vice-principals. The aim is the train the educators in making their schools more effective by implementing proper management systems.
Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan said that too often when Ministry officials visit schools and ask questions, they’re often told: "you don’t know the kinds of students we get”. However, Seecharan questioned schools’ engagement with families of students. He said management systems to deal with the roll-out of the curriculum and management of students should form part of a school development plan. He told principals and vice-principals that it was part of their job to visit classrooms and observe the teachers as clinical supervision forms part of their job.
“You must have a vision of where you want to lead your school or otherwise, you’re not leading anybody,” Seecharan said.
- by Kevon Felmine