Sunday 18 August, 2019

Questions raised over readiness of schools for new term

Former Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh (left), Education Minister Anthony Garcia (right).

Former Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh (left), Education Minister Anthony Garcia (right).

Opposition MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh said he had no faith that Education Minister Garcia would ensure that all schools are repaired by September 4.

In a statement issued just two weeks before the start of the new school term, Gopeesingh noted that the Education Ministry owed over one billion dollars to contractors, which he said was responsible for the delay in the reopening of some schools.

“The assurance of Education Minister Anthony Garcia that all schools are ready for the start of the academic year is hollow in light of his track record on this important matter. Having a proper teaching and learning environment for all students is expected to be a challenge for Mr. Garcia because of his tardiness in paying construction contractors. Almost $1.2 billion is being owed to contractors who were employed by the Education Facilities Company Ltd., (EFCL),” he said.

Minister Garcia however, said the figure reveals outstanding payments dating back to 2012.

Meanwhile, Gopeesingh added that more than 25 schools were closed at various times last year because of pressing maintenance issues. He said in some instances, schools were shut for long periods, resulting in adverse effects on the education of affected students.

The former Education Minister further criticized Garcia for not completing schools which the People’s Partnership Government had begun to construct. He said the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) must hold Minister Garcia to account for this debacle.

“The People’s Partnership had constructed 104 schools, comprised of 67 Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) centres, 21 Primary and eight Secondary Schools. When the PNM regime entered national office, 27 ECCE centres, 23 Primary and six Secondary Schools were under construction. Several structures have been left to rot and decay. The PNM regime has not constructed a single new education facility. On behalf of the nation’s students, I urge the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association to hold the Minister of Education accountable on this vital matter,” he stated.

The Caroni East MP also pleaded with the Minister to re-launch the Computer Laptop Grant, Schools’ Textbook Programme and After-School Homework Centres. He also called on Garcia to ensure that there is no cutback in the School Feeding Programme, which provides essential nutrition to thousands of students.

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