Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said the 2024 budget showed government’s clear focus on educating young citizens.
The Education Ministry received an allocation of $8.022 billion, an increase of $569,000 over the 2023 allocation of $7.453 billion.
Among the measure the Finance Minister listed were a $1,000 school-supply grant for needy children, standardisation of textbooks, the distribution of 2,400 laptops across 94 secondary schools, remedial education, teacher training and adult and financial literacy.
In a WhatsApp response to questions from Newsday, Dr Gadsby-Dolly said, “The budget showed the government’s clear focus on the education of our young citizens and support to the most vulnerable. The grant adds further support to the booklist freeze which was announced in 2022 and has taken effect in this academic year. The focus of the government is clear – national development and the future of Trinidad and Tobago.”
TT Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA) first vice president Adesh Dwarika said the union anticipated that one of the larger chunks of the budget would go to education.
He said several things are lacking in the sector, and finances are needed to get these things started.
“We are pleased there is a focus on providing a school-supply grant for needy students, as coming out of the covid19 situation, a number of students had to drop out or stay away from school because of economic and financial hardship. This grant will go a long way in order for them to be kept in school and achieve their potential.
“We also support keeping the booklist within reach and not having a regeneration of new textbooks coming out every year and parents have to foot the bill to be able to purchase the books.”
He said continuous teacher training augurs well for the profession and the classroom once it is done. He said while the union approved the remediation programmes, it felt there was a need for trained people to interact with the students, as opposed to teachers volunteering or being paid a stipend.
Dwarika said the union would take an active role in making sure that the promises made to the education sector in the budget were kept.
Former education minister Anthony Garcia said he was pleased not only with the allocation but with the strategies to ensure the education system moves forward.
He said the textbook standardisation and the school-supply grant will help a number of people who live on subsistence.
“I’m aware of several families who are finding it difficult not only to send their children to school but to ensure they have the required textbooks and school uniforms. This will go a long way to ensuring a large number of children would now have access to education. We must remember that education is a basic human right and one all children should enjoy.”
He noted with approval Imbert's statement that laptop distribution would be done in a sensible, sane and sober manner. He said under the laptop programme introduced by the UNC between 2010 and 2015, students were not able to benefit, as the necessary infrastructure, such as internet connection and properly trained teachers, was not in place.
Garcia said training technical and vocational teachers was a step in the right direction, as over the years, technical and vocational training enrolment was on the decline, as there were not enough trained teachers to administer the programmes.
He said the 150 per cent tax allowance – up to $500,000 for corporate entities that sponsor private and public schools – would inspire more companies to do more.
“Without the assistance of corporate stakeholders, many schools would not be able to provide the basic needs of their students. Alumni associations have built classroom blocks, outfitted classrooms, and donated sporting equipment and computers, so allowing them a tax rebate will give them the inspiration to donate more.
"Schools are community efforts, the government can’t do it alone.”