Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Assemblyman Farley Augustine believes past corruption by the State is a hindrance to corporate TT responding to an appeal to assist students with digital devices for online learning.
Augustine was speaking on Friday at the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough during a debate on a motion for the House to support calls for the private and public sector to provide appropriate digital devices for use in schools.
The representative for Parlatuivier/ L'Anse Fourmi/Speyside said corruption has an inordinate cost that students are now paying the price for.
He said, "The motion rightfully recognises there are responsibilities for the people, other stakeholders and the State. Sometimes out of sheer neglect, the State tends to want to foist upon the people its own responsibility, and that is where I have a challenge. What really are the responsibilities of the State in all of this?
"Even as we ask members of the public, private citizens, corporate citizens, to contribute more, to give more notwithstanding their own difficulties, we must ask if there is an opportunity cost for resources the State has constantly mismanaged; that we could have easily been putting to our education sector."
He added, "Think of all cost overruns; all the projects started; we started building and never opened; millions wasted in vanity projects; those lost through pilfering and think of how many devices we could have purchased.
"If we are honest as a nation and we look at the opportunity cost of corruption, now is a good time to remind ourselves corruption costs developing societies as ours way too much and it can become a matter of life and death."
He said the public is cognisant of how the State has squandered taxpayers' money.
"When people are sceptical and cynical about our pleading to contribute in this time, we have to understand it's not that they being greedy or selfish but they understand the opportunity cost of corruption."
Augustine also criticised the PNM-led Assembly for being ambiguous about what is required to properly facilitate online learning.
"We have heard previously we will get devices from UNICEF, those haven't arrived as yet. We also saw there is a desire to spend some additional millions ($7,825,000) to acquire some more devices, we are yet to hear how many students that will cover.
"At this point, we don't know precisely how many student require a device. Some mention was made of some schools.
I must give Secretary of Education credit for pulling stats for my area, but across the island of Tobago how many devices are needed? If we begging corporate citizens we should be able to break that down saying: X amount for students and X amount for staff. There still isn't a clear picture of what is needed."
Augustine said the THA continues to struggle to influence its destiny because of it's lack of legislative power. He said Tobago should be able to formulate its own educational plan but instead just follows what Trinidad dictates.
The Assemblyman also appealed for more patience when dealing with parents as the pandemic is unprecedented and not easy to deal with.
The Division of Education, Innovation and Energy and TTUTA Tobago recently revealed that approximately 4,000 students lack digital devices for learning.