When the National Assembly resumed for Day Three of the ongoing budget debates on Thursday, former Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry opened the session with calls for the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) to recognise the groundwork laid by the former Coalition Government for several educational projects currently being rolled out.
Henry accused the PPP/C of merely keeping the gains and momentum which she started, a comment that was met with reproach by Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, who in turn, chastised the APNU+AFC for lacking vision and the ability to see projects to its finality.
“All the APNU+AFC is known for is starting projects they can’t finish. They are fancy talkers, sensational talk, everything sounds right, that’s how they roll into office,” Manaickchand told the House in her presentation that followed Henry’s.
The minister said the coalition erred when it let go of several senior education officials including Olato Sam, Marcel Hudson and Melcita Bovell. Now, with the return of these persons, Manickchand said the PPP/C is rolling out projects that the APNU+AFC simply couldn’t get done.
“Understand that is your weakness, you can never get it done and that’s the problem… we are rolling it out now,” Manickchand added.
A contentious issue was the ProFuturo-Guyana project, which is a Digital Learning Platform Agreement with the Organization of American States (OAS).
Henry claimed that she travelled to Washington while she was Minister of Education and initiated discussions, something she said the Coalition should be recognised for.
But Manickchand argued that years after the agreement was signed, nothing was done. She said the training of teachers under the agreement only commenced in October 2020, two months after the PPP/C came to office.
In addition, Manickchand said she is in possession of letters that Coursera and the Commonwealth wrote to Henry while she was a minister “begging her” to start the programme here. According to the Education Minister, her predecessor refused to start the programme.
She said the PPP/C started the programme and now Guyana ranks number one in the world for members enrolled and graduating from Coursera. Figures produced by Manickchand show that 31,297 Guyanese took courses while 9,473 received certificates.
Another contentious issue was the construction of a new secondary school at Prospect, East Bank Demerara. Henry claimed that it was a product of the coalition’s successful interaction with the World Bank, something Manickchand said was simply delusional.
Manickchand said the negotiations started while the PPP/C was in office prior to 2015, where four schools were to be built but only three were built with a promise to build a fourth school. “Because you palavered and could not get it done, it became too expensive to do four schools.”
Manickchand claimed that even the three schools where construction commenced were not completed.
“We draw the school and left the money and none were finished… it took the PPP coming back to finish those schools and deliver the promise of universal secondary education,” she added.
Manickchand said the PPP/C also intends to restart the “Because We Care” cash grant for students, which has so far been increased and will be increased over the next five years to $50,000.
In addition, she said the “One Teacher for Laptop Project” will also restart since it was abolished by the Coalition, although money was sitting in a bank account to purchase the laptops and roll out the project.
“Yes, we rolling it out now!” she exclaimed.
Manickchand also slammed the opposition for failing to put in place a plan for teaching and keeping students engaged during the pandemic.