Gov’t ‘actively considering’ cash grants for private school children

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By Vishani Ragobeer 

As the nationwide rollout of the Ministry of Education’s “Because We Care” cash grant continues, the Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand on Sunday announced that the ministry is actively considering distributing such grants to private school children as well.

Responding to a question from the News Room during her visit to the Mahaicony Secondary school in Region Five (Mahaica- Berbice), Manickchand explained that historically, children in private schools have not benefited from public input besides trained teachers and a standardised curriculum. Unlike public schools, she said that children in these schools do not benefit from textbooks or uniform vouchers.

Following the rollout of this year’s voucher, pegged at $19,000 per child since it is a combination of a $15,000 grant and a $4,000 uniform voucher, there have been several calls for this to be extended to those in private schools too.

“…parents were very robust in their call that they too thought that they should benefit from the state’s resources,” the minister stated, acknowledging that such a call is “entirely understandable”.

She, however, noted that over the past weeks, local authorities have been exploring how this grant can also be given to those children as well.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand

But, according to the Education Minister, the current hurdle is that the ministry does not have a register of learners in the private schools like the mandatory register all public schools have. It is this register that has allowed the Education Ministry to make the $3.2 billion allocation to adequately cater for the total cash grant distribution to all public school children.

And that register of learners, the Education Minister said, allows the distribution of the cash grants to be done in a “transparent process”.

As such, she reasoned that a register of learners attending all private schools in Guyana would be necessary to allow the ministry to determine the sum that can cater for the disbursement of the grants to these children too.

So far, she said that the ministry has received information on learners from 55 schools out of the 116 private schools on record. When all of the required information is received, she said that these registers must be verified.

“I don’t think it is an insurmountable problem with the private schools, but it is one we would have to fix,” she said.

In the immediate short term, however, the minister explained that the $3.2 billion allocated for the current cash grant distribution cannot cater for grants to private school children. The allocation was made to specifically cater for the exact number of learners in the public school system.

She, however, emphasised, “If a policy decision is taken at a higher level, that we are doing this for private schools, then we are going to have to get financial input that would allow us to do that.”

Still, the Education Minister said that the education ministry is “actively considering” the disbursement of grants to private school children.

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