The Education sector: What did it really achieve last year?

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Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine weighs in …

Prior to assuming office, the coalition administration had complained bitterly that the education system was simply failing more than half of Guyana’s children. Now that it has been in office for over a year, it is important and even reasonable for one to question what the government has really accomplished in such a crucial sector.

Weighing in on this issue is Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine.

In keeping with the sector’s mission, Dr. Roopnaraine said that the Ministry of Education last year, embarked on new interventions designed to improve access to and quality of education across all regions.

Recognizing the need to improve school attendance, Dr. Roopnaraine said that the Ministry launched its pilot breakfast programme in nine East Coast of Demerara schools, roughly equally divided between the communities of Buxton and Enmore, a project that benefited 657 pupils.

Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine

Further, he explained that the expansion of the hot meal programme in another 50 nursery and primary schools in Regions 1, 7, 8, 9 and the Pomeroon River benefitted an additional 4,000 students. As such, in 2016, the Minister of Education said that a total of over 70,000 pupils would have received some form of nutritional snack or meal through the national school-feeding programme.

Coupled with this, Dr. Roopnaraine said that the Ministry continued its support service programmes, which included the issuing of school uniform vouchers, of which over 133,000 students benefitted across all levels and the distribution of footwear and bicycles to students, particularly in the hinterland and riverine communities.

In an effort to cushion the cost of transportation for students, as well as, reduce the rate of dropouts at the post-secondary level, the Minister of Education said that a monthly stipend has been given to students of the Leonora and Mahaicony Technical and Vocational Centres and the Upper Corentyne Industrial Training Centre. Currently, over 500 such students are benefitting from this initiative.

Additionally, Dr. Roopnaraine said that in keeping with the thrust of balancing the expressive arts with academic excellence, an additional 52 primary teachers were trained last year in the delivery of the music programme, giving a total of over 135 music teachers in schools.

Further, he said that an additional 1,000 pupils have been introduced to the playing of the recorder across regions 2, 3, 4, 6, 10 and Georgetown.  At the secondary level, Dr. Roopnaraine said that a total of 80 students were for the first time introduced to the playing of the steel pans at three schools namely, Stewartville Secondary, Diamond Secondary and Bladen Hall Secondary.

He said, “The Ministry has recognized there is a need to address the increased rate of psycho-social issues in schools. To this end, initial efforts have been made to construct counseling rooms in 10 secondary schools namely:  Cummings Lodge, Richard Ishmael, St. Mary’s, Lodge, South Ruimveldt, Tutorial, Dolphin, East Ruimveldt, Tucville and Charlestown to provide a space for remedial sessions with students.”

Dr. Roopnaraine continued, “We also continued to recognize the invaluable role parents play as partners in education.  In this regard, for example, we launched the READ PLAY LOVE mass media campaign which – through print, video, radio, and web-based interface – will inundate communities across Guyana with the core message that primary caregivers and the community at large have a critical role to play in the education and socio-emotional development of young children.”

The politician added, “We recognize that curriculum is the cornerstone of any education system. This year, the Ministry took some steps towards conceptualizing the revision of its curriculum, including stakeholder consultations, curriculum review and assessment, curriculum development, training for curriculum pilot programmes and implementation and development of national assessment for the curriculum.”

Furthermore, Dr. Roopnaraine said that in this era of rapid technological change, the Ministry has a mandate of ensuring that all secondary schools are adequately equipped for the teaching of ICT-related subjects.

In addition to its ongoing work in providing a growing number of schools with new or upgraded computer lab facilities, he said that 2016 also saw the launch of the One Laptop Per Teacher initiative.

Further, in collaboration with the E-Government Unit, 82 secondary schools, eight TVET Institutions and six departments of education were provided with Internet and network connectivity, while 33 additional secondary schools and 7 CPCE sites are in the process of being connected.

The Minister also noted that under the Secondary Improvement Project, Grade 7 students from eight pilot secondary schools of North Ruimveldt, Diamond, Bladen Hall Multilateral, Annandale, West Demerara, Leonora, St. Ignatius and Bartica were recipients of 1,120 tablets, all fully loaded with mathematics software with the aim of enhancing learning through the use of technology.

He said that the teachers have been trained to utilize this new methodology and the schools have been equipped with projectors and servers to facilitate this process. Further, Dr. Roopnaraine said that three science laboratories were completed at Vryman’s Erven, Canje and Annai Secondary schools so as to enhance the delivery of the sciences in schools.

Consistent with the drive to embrace the fundamentals of a green economy, Dr. Roopnaraine said, “the Ministry of Education has partnered with the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) in an attempt to reduce the usage and cost of electricity. GEA has conducted energy assessments at 29 secondary schools across Guyana and has conducted energy saving awareness exercises at three schools in Georgetown.”

He said that GEA has also provided support to the Ministry of Education through the rehabilitation of photovoltaic systems at five hinterland schools in the hinterland regions. GEA has also installed solar photovoltaic systems at seven schools, all in an attempt to ultimately reduce the usage of energy and electricity costs.

Dr. Roopnaraine continued, “In 2016, two new schools were completed: Parfait Harmonie Primary and Smyth Street Nursery. Additionally, the process for the construction of three additional nursery schools commenced, namely Mocha, Turkeyen and Carmelita.”

He added, “In 2016 we continued to position our national university as a centre for innovation.  Under the University of Guyana Science and Technology Support (UGSTSP), 15 Bachelor’s Degree programmes in the faculties of Natural Sciences, Technology, Agriculture and Forestry and Earth and Environmental Sciences were reformed and introduced in the 2016/2017 academic year.”

In addition, The Minister of Education said that 13 buildings were rehabilitated and laboratory equipment and furniture were installed in the science and technology faculties and a fiber optic ring and wireless network was installed.

The Minister said that research projects in the areas of the impact of mining on biodiversity, alternative medicine and the integration of environmental education in the mathematics curriculum were completed.

He said that research in other areas such as the carbon storage potential of the mangrove forests in Guyana; the effects of corilla on secondary and primary cancer cell lines; and the impact of mining on fish diversity and diet in coastal and inland rivers of Guyana, continued.

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