Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mr Minister, please educate us

Did I read the Minister of Education correctly? Did the honourable Minister say, as reported in a daily newspaper, “We must ask how do they (principals) manage the close to $2 million given to them annually?’’ This minister continues to demonstrate why he is looked upon as a square peg.

Mr Minister of Education, at your next meeting with the press, please state how many and which schools receive $2 million annually, and then state the age of those schools.

What you conveniently fail to say is that in spite of the Ministry of Education receiving one of the highest budgetary allocations for the fiscal year 2013-2014, allocations to many secondary schools have been decreased by ten per cent to 15 per cent, including schools that are more than 40 years old and in need of significant repairs.

Further, the Education Facilities Co Ltd is performing only emergency repairs to schools that are on the verge of unscheduled closure.

Will the increased budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Education be used for the construction of new secondary schools before the 2015 general election, so that the Minister can boast that “…under my tenure, X schools were built?”

Why build more schools when existing schools have serious maintenance and repair challenges? Is the Minister reducing the allocation to secondary schools so that additional funds acquired can be used to improve his political stocks?

Does the Minister know that the number of service providers that accept government vouchers as payment is decreasing because of the lengthy delay in receiving payment from the Ministry of Education? Does the Minister know that in some older schools, more than 75 per cent of the allocation received is used for repairs and maintenance of deteriorating infrastructure?

Is the Minister aware that a balance of $350,000 in many secondary schools is used for office supplies, cleaning supplies, repairs to office and computer equipment, purchase of computer and other ICT equipment, purchase of classroom furniture, payment of some utility bills, and the list goes on. Consequently, only 25 per cent to 35 per cent of funding received by secondary schools is used for education purposes.

For reasons like these, principals get up and leave meetings when the Minister of Education comes to the podium to speak!

Shamshad Ali