Ministry hopes for completion of repairs ahead of new school year

Tuesday, August 27, 2019 - 17:30

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