Wednesday 21 November, 2018

Education Ministry: No means test for school meals, maxi-taxi

The Ministry of Education refuted comments by the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) regarding a means test for students to be eligible for school meals or maxi-taxi transport.

On July 31 TTUTA said in a media report that school officials were being asked to 'virtually carry out a means test'.

"School officials are now being asked to virtually carry out a means test to determine the suitability of students to receive this service. Not being social workers, school officials have to make tough judgment calls regarding which students deserve food/transport or not."

In a statement issued Friday, the Ministry said there is no means test to determine a student's eligibility for these services and that the Ministry is trying to ensure 'value for money'.

"Contrary to claims made by TTUTA, the MOE wishes to advise the public there is no means test to determine the suitability of students to receive these services."

"The efforts by the Ministry to review these services in order to ensure value for money and prevent wastage have actually saved the Ministry million of dollars so far."

The Ministry said in February 2018 it established four committees comprising various stakeholders to review the School Transport System, National Schools Dietary Services Limited (NSDL), Weight of School Bags and the National Schools Code of Conduct.

The Ministry said TTUTA is represented on all four of these committees as well as representatives from NPTA, PTSC, Denominational Boards and various Principals Associations.   

The Ministry said an analysis of the National Schools Dietary Services Limited (NSDL) discovered an excess of 7,000 meals being served daily.

The Ministry said the successful review process also saved the Ministry approximately $5 million in the last academic year.

"Contrary to TTUTA’s claims, the Ministry assures that the NSDL quality control officers adhere to the strictest quality control measures to ensure that all meals provided are well within the guidelines provided by the Ministry," the Ministry said. 

The Ministry said similarly, the process to review the School Transport System was designed to improve efficiency and to ensure the Ministry gets 'value for money'.

The Ministry said it analysed invoices for October-December 2017 and said it was being 'overcharged' resulting in the reimbursement of approximately $1.7 million.

"The review process has also unearthed many cases of duplication of claims for payments, maxis operating below 50 percent capacity and a duplication of maxis on particular routes, maxis transporting two to three students on some routes, among other findings," the Ministry said. 

The Ministry pointed out another 'ridiculous' claim by TTUTA over maxi-taxi checks.

"Another ridiculous claim made by TTUTA in the commentary was that teachers are now required to stand at the school gate and ensure that certain students are transported by specific maxi-taxis on mornings and evenings. The Ministry of Education reiterates that this is a total fabrication and is farthest from the truth."

"The Ministry of Education wishes to assure citizens these prudent measures to ensure efficiency and value for money and to prevent wastage are necessary in these tough financial times. The Ministry of Education also remains fully committed to working with all education stakeholders to provide quality education and greater access to education services for students," the Ministry said. 

The Ministry said it is willing to work with TTUTA towards the enhancement of the education system but said said within recent times TTUTA "seems to be reluctant to commit to the professional standards upon which it is built, but instead travels on a path of confrontation which will not benefit those we are committed to serve".


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