Despite the $7.2905 billion allocated in the 2018 budget to the Ministry of Education, president of the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai said the association is not enthused about it.
Doodhai said that the last three budgets saw this ministry get large allocations but this never redounded to the benefit of the education system. “One has to understand the seven odd billion dollars also includes tertiary education and that means part of the money will go toward the GATE programme. So it does not mean seven billion is going to trickle down into the ECCE, primary and secondary school system which TTUTA represents. That is why we are not excited about the fact that this ministry got the largest allocation.”
Doodhai hopes school repairs will benefit from the hefty allocation as too many schools affected on a daily basis due to long-standing problems ranging from infrastructure, sewer and air condition. He also hopes the ministry can have an effective repair programme to prevent recurrence of schools being affected on a daily basis.
“Right now there are hundreds of schools where principals have requested work to be done in their schools. It does not mean the schools have to be closed but there are hundreds of requests for schools to be repaired so as to improve conditions. And it is not being done due to lack of funding.
“I am not sure if the ministry will keep their word to conduct school repairs because in September 2015, there were a number of schools being reconstructed and due to the non payment of money, most of the contractors packed up and left.” Doodhai said many of the schools which were being reconstructed are now over grown with bushes and deserted.
He said it is not a problem to have an overnight solution, but millions are owed to contractors for previous school repairs. “Half of the money is to pay debt. It is a wait and see approach with the recommencement of those schools because most of them are 95 percent completed and we also have to wait and see if there will be any improvement with school repairs.”
“All the money will not be available for repairs or reconstruction work. It is like a recurring decimal. Therefore, there will be no money to continue work at schools. The money will be going to the same debt situation. TTUTA is always hopeful that the ministry can get it right and we can have school repairs conducted so it can decrease the number of schools that are forced to close on a daily basis,” Doodhai said.