Education stakeholders have said they are pleased with the government’s continued focus on education and training in the national budget.
The 2022 national budget was read on Monday by Minister of Finance Colm Imbert in the House of Representatives.
Of the major allocations, education and training received $6.886 billion. The figure, however, is less than the fiscal 2021 allocation of $7.973 billion.
“Any cuts in education would be a concern,” said interim chairman of the National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA) Zena Ramatali.
“In light of the pandemic, however, there would obviously be cuts here and there.”
She said what the association would like to see is a focus on resources and infrastructure and having schools ready for a full physical reopening.
“One of the narratives we keep hearing is that schools are over 50 and 60 years old. We want to see modernised, refurbished schools.”
She said smart classrooms would also be an improvement in many schools. Smart classrooms utilise technological tools such as interactive touchscreens to replace blackboards.
Ramatali said she is also happy with the government’s TT WiFi initiative, which Imbert said would be expanded in 2022.
“I’m hoping to see that implemented…We trust that it will be guaranteed that schools will be equipped with WiFi so all children will have access to education. We will be looking at that closely.”
Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Vijay Maharaj said although the education allocation is a bit less than last year, he appreciates the focus on the sector. However, he said there was no mention of how it was going to be utilised, so he will wait to see.
Maharaj said the SDMS has two primary schools and three secondary schools which have not been completed since 2013.
He said in recent years, education continues to be the focus of the government’s budget. “We have to maintain that. We’re still asking for corporate support for devices. (So) for all intents and purposes, I’m glad about that (and) I’m satisfied we are in the right place to move forward.”
He said under the economic circumstances and health protocols, he was overall happy with the budget.
Maharaj said he continues to push for the full reopening of schools.
“I don’t believe that we could have hybrid teaching. Do we want a country of introverts? They need to come out.”
President of the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Antonia De Freitas said the association will have to spend some time analysing the budget documents before she can adequately respond.
“That is simply a figure that has been given,” she said.
“What we need to do as educational professionals is look at the development programmes and the public sector investment programmes; that would give us a better picture on what we need to be concerned about.”