‘When contractors fail, children suffer’ – Manickchand says as sod turned for $566M North Ruimveldt Secondary

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Education Minister Priya Manickchand has issued a stern warning to contractors undertaking education projects, noting that the ministry will be imposing penalties for late delivery of projects as students are affected when projects are not completed on time and to standard.

The Minister was speaking at the sod-turning for the new $566.9 million North Ruimveldt Secondary School in Georgetown which is being rebuilt after the old structure was destroyed by fire.

“So, when contractors fail to do what they’re supposed to do, at the quality they’re supposed to do it, children suffer,” Manickchand said.

“I’m going to be harsher and more vigilant on delivery and that will see us doing things like apply liquated damages because people suffer when we don’t get these schools ready, when they’re not done to specs,” she added.

She told the contractors that when it comes to education projects, it cannot be just another job because if the project isn’t finished the students cannot be educated and therefore it’s “very important” that projects are completed at a high quality and on time.

“If we don’t finish people will live in poverty for the rest of their lives because they miss that one single year where they couldn’t go to school,” she explained.

The Education Minister shared that she was informed on Wednesday by the Regional Education Officer of Region Eight (Potaro – Sipuruni) that because of a delayed project within the region, they must now return to ‘primary tops’ – a system where secondary students are hosted at a primary school.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand overlooking Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Alfred King (left) signing the $566.( million contract for the new school (Ministry of Education Photo/August 24, 2022)

Manickchand reminded that contractors are chosen from an impartial and transparent process of public tendering based on their bid submitted for the project and therefore contractors cannot claim victimisation when penalties are applied.

“So you can’t tell me if we’re applying penalties, at that point, that we don’t like you. We like you enough to sign the contract with you today and to turn the sod and give you the work,” she said.

Importantly, the Minister highlighted that the projects are not only the responsibility of the contractors and engineers responsibility as these technical staff do not understand the relationship between education delivery and the construction process.

As such, each new building will have an education officer attached to the construction site who will report to the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary and Chief Education Officer who will then report to the minister on the progress of structure in relation to the delivery of education.

The ministry will also be posting what the school is supposed to look like and the specifications to which it must be constructed so that parents and other persons can scrutinize and verify it for themselves.

“We’re not in doubt about what happens when physical space is not ready or is destroyed for children and that is why we must protect in every way, schools, the learning that happens there and the reputation of schools,” Manickchand said.

Manickchand explained that usually more than 150 students would be placed at the North Ruimveldt Secondary, due to the destruction caused by the fire only 50 students would be placed at the school in 2022.

Stressing that schools must be protected at all costs, Manickchand reminded of the North West Secondary School in Region One which was destroyed by arson, and highlighted that students from that institution are now being educated under tents.

The North Ruimveldt Secondary School was destroyed by a fire in June, 2021. Manickchand had pledged at the time of the fire that the government will rebuild the institution which housed 512 students along with 39 teachers.

The new three-story school will be outfitted with all modern amenities, including science labs, Information Technology (IT) labs, modern classrooms, and a staff room, among other things.

The contract for the school was awarded to Kares Engineering Inc. and is expected to be completed within the next 14 months.

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