Budget Debate 20143130 07 Apr, 2014
Minister of Education [Ms. Manickchand]: May it please you, Your Honour. I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak this afternoon.
I wish to begin by congratulating the Hon. Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh for presenting a budget to this nation that is holistic, that is comprehensive, that addresses, as far as our country’s economy would allow us, the needs of almost every sector in this country. I recall a very experienced Mr. Komal Chand, Hon. Member, speaking of Dr. Ashni Singh presiding over this sector – the Ministry of Finance – for eight years and stating that he is the longest sitting Minister of Finance in this sector. I want to say congratulations for that too.
Dr. Singh sat, presided and managed the Ministry of Finance and the country’s economy for eight years in a period when the world saw, for the last century, the worst financial crisis that has ever been experienced. In an atmosphere where persons were losing jobs, entire countries were crashing, economies were going down and citizens were losing their homes and their dignities, we, in Guyana, held our own and grew. We did not only hold our own; we grew. And for the last eight years, we have had consecutive growth in this country with last year seeing positive growth at 5.2%. The last time we saw this was sometime between 1964 and 1971. There was some growth between 1991 and 1997. Then, there came the interventions and consequences of the “slow fire” and “more fire” kind of destructive politics we see hampering our development and that stymied our growth. So, when we should have been able to boast in 1998 that we had eight years of consecutive growth, we could not. When growth is interrupted and progress is interrupted, a country takes a while before it can catch itself again. We saw this country, our dear land, catching itself, holding and sustaining that growth for the last eight years. To Dr. Singh, the Hon. Minister of Finance, we are proud of you. We are grateful to you for the efforts you have made over the years and we stand with you on this Budget that is going to see goodness brought to the people of Guyana.
A frontbencher on the Opposition side called the staff of the Ministry of Finance “tired” and said that they should go home. I think that was one of the most unfortunate things we heard in this House for the duration of the budget debate. Professional staff can vote however they want but they should be allowed to work in peace without being targeted and their professionalism should be respected. Entire conferences are organised and arranged around this world to have more women involved in the budgetary process of states. Here in Guyana, we have a young, bright, hardworking, articulate person and she is a woman. She is Sonia Roopnauth. She is our Director of Budget. We should be proud as a nation that we have done what conferences are organised to call on nations to do. Regardless of which side of the House one sits on, that is a matter to celebrate. So, to the staff of the Ministry of Finance, we thank you. We thank you for your hard work; we thank you for the work you do tirelessly; we thank you for the weekends you give up so that you can serve us. We thank you for working on the holidays. On behalf of the people of Guyana –the many PPP/C supporters and the few Opposition supporters – I say to the Ministry staff, thank you. We are deeply grateful.
I spoke just now of the growth that Guyana has experienced. Growth does not come easily and it does not come by magic. There has to be careful stewardship. There has to be prudent management. There has to be a vision and a relentless pursuit of that vision to give Guyana what is good for Guyana and to treat Guyanese with love, with care and with affection, to hold the hands of the vulnerable and walk them through, to hold the hands of those who are not so vulnerable and help them build. This is the kind of stewardship and the kind of leadership we have seen come out of the Ministry of Finance, supported by a PPP/C Cabinet and PPP/C Government. That is the kind of vision, the desire to pursue that vision and relentless pursuit of that vision that has seen us as a people and nation celebrating eight years of consecutive growth.
For those who would stand up or sit and heckle and say, “well, I am not too sure if there was growth” without saying more, apart from that being extremely insipid, we have so much around us, Sir, by which we can measure this growth. We are planting the most hectares of rice we have ever planted. We are getting more production. We are getting more private sector involvement in the rice industry. We are seeing visibly more buildings going up, more homes being owned by our Guyanese people, more expansion in the gold sector. These are things that can visibly be seen even if one were not very good with numbers - and I am not. I am no expert on growth of economies, but these are things we can see. These are things we can visibly identify as to whether or not our country has grown.
When I speak to people I always say, “Look, things might not be great right now or they might not be where you want them to be, but is your life better than it was the last ten years? Do you have a home or are you renting somewhere as opposed to living with your parents? Do you have a job? Are your children accessing school? Are they doing better? Can you go to the supermarket and buy things that were once, first of all, banned and when they were not, too expensive for you to afford? Is your life better than it was five, ten and 20 years ago?” Those are ways we can measure growth tangibly. All around us is evidence of the growth that Minister Singh spoke about in his Budget Speech.
The theme of the Budget is A Better Guyana for All Guyanese. It could not have been a more apt theme. How do we get this better Guyana for all Guyanese? We are living in a place and standing in a room where, whether we agree with each other or not, I would have great difficulty believing that people in the Opposition do not truly care about making Guyana a better place. I would have difficulty with believing that. I believe they want to make Guyana a better place. I believe that they now have a little bit of a gap to fill in making sure that desire matches their actions. That is a gap they would have to fill, but I would have difficulty standing here and saying that these people who work...we heard from Ms. Joan Baveghems who was the last person who spoke on Friday night. This is a woman who has given her life in service. She is a grass root woman who has given her life in service. People in this House claim they want to see a better Guyana but a better Guyana for all Guyanese has to begin with an understanding that all Guyanese means every single sector and every single Guyanese in this country. You cannot say that because most of the sugar workers did not vote for me, I will spite them by cutting the $6 billion. They are Guyanese too and they are entitled to a better Guyana.
Mr. Speaker: One second, Minister. I do not think I have heard a single Member of the House say that during the debate.
Ms. Manickchand: I heard Mr. Ramjattan – I am sure he would be happy to clarify if he wants to come back into the House...
Mr. Speaker: I just thought that in their absence I should state that.
Ms. Manickchand: I did not tell him to be absent, Sir. He has said that he is cutting with his scissors hand the $6 billion.
Mr. Speaker: You gave a reason. You said that the Member said that because the people are the sugar workers, he will cut. I have no doubt that statements have been made about cutting but the reason that you gave...
Ms. Manickchand: Mr. Speaker, my constituents have suggested to me that they believe they are being discriminated against because they did not vote for the Opposition; they voted for the PPP/C and they believe they are being punished. Is that acceptable, Sir?
Mr. Speaker: Very much.
Ms. Manickchand: Thank you. A better Guyana for all Guyanese includes all Guyanese. We cannot say we love our children. We are not going to cut the amount for the education sector... We are going to hear that. We are not going to interfere with education. That is important for our children. They would not cut the education budget and they will give us in the Ministry of Education the ability to provide a meal for the children but they take away from their parents the ability to provide the further two meals that they need. The cut will take away the ability from their parents to provide a rent, clothes and other things children need to be able to grow and be whole and live their dreams. That is what is going to happen when they chop up this Budget.
If we are going to have a better Guyana for all Guyanese, then the phrase “all Guyanese” has to include the people who democratically exercised their right to choose a government. The days of stealing votes and days and ignoring the views and desires of people must be put behind us if we are to continue as a civilised democratic State.
I plead with the Opposition in all the deliberations in this House to put Guyana first and do what is right for Guyana. There will be opportunities, perhaps sooner than later, for the Opposition parties to go to the people of Guyana and persuade them that their policies and vision, if they have any, are better for Guyana and, maybe, the people of Guyana will put them on this side of the House, in which case they can pursue that. Until then, the Government has a responsibility to fulfil the promises that the PPP/C made in its manifesto and on the campaign trail and that is to bring goodness to all Guyanese.
If the People’s National Congress’ A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) is saying its theme was A Good Life for All Guyanese, then it can have no difficulty with a better Guyana for all Guyanese so this is the Budget to support.
There can be no sector better than the education sector that could demonstrate tangibly the growth over the years during which the PPP/C has been in office. There is absolutely no other sector. We know that last year 40% of the national Budget was allocated and spent in the social sector – education, housing, health, human services. It was spent on people, our people, and the people we love. That is the kind of allocation that went to the people of Guyana last year through the Budget. Some 15.9% of that alone was spent on educating our nation’s children and giving them the highest quality of education we have been able to give so far, on providing meals, on helping their parents outfit them for school, on providing trained teachers to put in front of the classrooms, on providing textbooks and exercise books and the other things that are necessary for our children.
The PPP/C has the ideology, which has been evident in every single policy and every single budget from 1992 to now, that education is the one thing that will see us alleviate poverty surely. We can be sure that if we invest in our people through education, it will be an investment in Guyana. We have matched our commitment by tangible budgetary allocations.
I would like to demonstrate for this honourable House and for you, Sir, the growth that we have had over the years.
In 1992, there was 5% of the national budget, a much smaller budget and I am not talking about a nominal value, was allocated towards education. Last year, I said that we spent 15.9% of our budget on education.
Let us talk about how results have come over the years. In 1990 – which is the overall pass rate with students getting five or more subjects, grades 1 to 2 and then later on 3 – we had 21% of the population passing generally at CXC. In 1995, with a commitment of the people of this country and the necessary allocation in the budget, we had seen a 9% increase and 29% of our children had passed, generally. By 2000, it had moved to 46%. By 2005, CSEC results moved to 60%. By 2010, it was 66%. I gave you a five-year growth. With money comes growth. Growth means our children are doing better. It means that our children are more prepared for the world tomorrow. It means that our children are more prepared not only to develop Guyana, but to contribute to this earth in different sectors wherever they may find themselves in this small global village we live in.
Mathematics: In 1990, we had 16.8% of the population passing. In 2000, it had moved, because we invested in the sector and in our people, to 24% and, by 2010, it moved to 34%. With investment comes growth. With our love for people comes their better preparation to meet the challenges of the world.
English: In 1990, we had 13.36% of our children passing. By 2000, it was 25.8% and, by 2010, it was 59.16% - growth. If one gives people goodness and invests in the people of this country, then one will see them and their children do better. Before one can invest, one has to have first a vision of where one wants to see Guyana go and then careful management, plotting and planning to get us there. We, on this side of the House, have shown that we are capable of doing that. We have shown how results have changed over the years.
We were talking about the impact of the Budget and impact, as Bishop Edghill said, it appears that the definition has been skewed to mean only if something bad is happening. But ‘impact’ means ‘good’; there is positive growth. It does not mean only good. We would be the first on this side of the House to tell you that we are not happy with a 59% pass in English. We are not happy with that. We want to see 100% of our children that we enrol and we sign up for exams pass English and we will get there because we can. We can plan for it; we can strategise for it; and we will fund it.
If the population was wondering, it is we who can be trusted to take the nation’s children forward. We have shown how we can do that. Every CSEC time, the Ministry of Education tells this nation what we have done in Mathematics and English. We tell the nation how unhappy we are with some of these grades. Do you know why we did not know that only 13% of our children were passing English in 1990? It was because we did not have that information. There was no transparency at that time.
We know last year that out of eight awards granted by the Caribbean Examinations Council, our Guyanese children, were given five; we won five. Which are the five we won? We won the best overall student. That person was Yogeeta Persaud from Anna Regina Multilateral. We won the best performer in sciences, Cecil Cox from Queen’s College. We won the best performer in business education, Sasha Woodruff from Queen’s College. We won the best performer in technical vocational education, Zimeena Rasheed from Essequibo. This student also wrote, for the first time in the history of this CARICOM Region, not the country, 20 subjects. She got 18 Grade 1s and two Grade 2s. We got the best performer in humanities, a young lady going to school in Region 3; her name is Ravina Mustapha.
From 2006, the only things that we did not get were the short story, the best performers in visual arts (two dimensional) and the best performer in visual arts (three dimensional) and we are going for it. We are going for it and we are going to get all eight of these awards before the next five years are over. From 2006 to 2013, except for 2010, Guyana has brought home, through our children, because of the investment we have been making in them, the best overall performer for the region - from 2006 to 2013 consecutively except for 2010!
When we talk about these things, what they mean could get lost in the numbers, in the applause, in the celebration of these children. When we could graduate from Anna Regina Multilateral over 90% of our children who attend there, graduate them as passing CSEC, we have just placed them in a position where they are competitive in this country and in this world. We have just made them better than their parents were. We have just prepared them to give their families better than they have had. We have just prepared them to help lead this country from now into the future. That is what happens when our children do well. To do anything to take away from the ability of our children to do well would be to rob this country and would be to rob those children themselves and their families of a good life. It would go against the very themes and promises that Opposition parties have been making towards people about having good lives and so on for all Guyana.
This Budget comes at a great time when we are just concluding our strategic plan. We are just finishing a five-year period where we saw, in most areas, we exceeded what we had projected. We have some work to do in some areas; we have recognised that. We have reviewed this very carefully and we know where we want to go for the next five years, so we are in the process of collating what all of our stakeholders have said would be best for Guyana’s children, best for Guyana as a country, and we will be publishing our strategic plan shortly. This Budget allows us to implement the first year of the strategic plan.
Some of the things we want to do is have 80% of teaches by the end of this planned period. We want to see at least 50% of our children reading at the Grade 4 level. We want to see universal secondary education achieved in Guyana. These are some of the things that we have planned so it is a great time, a good budget, a very relevant budget. Most people could not wait until the Hon. Member, Dr. Ashni Singh, finished reading the Budget. We wanted to know what was in it and how much of year one we would be able to do.
We also are in the process of finalising the Education Bill which we will lay before this National Assembly shortly. The last Education Act was passed in 1876 and, as far as we have been able to discern, it was last amended in 1976 so, as one may be able to imagine, it does not meet the needs of modern 2014 Guyana. So we are in the process of finalising that. For the first time, we will have the pleasure also of reading the final draft along with regulations under the Bill that would guide the implementation of the Act. We also would be shortly laying or making effective regulations under the National Accreditation Council and that is something that we are working feverishly on right now.
Whatever I will tell you shortly about how we are going to achieve quality education in our country is based on consultations that we have frequently across this country. Whatever is contained in this Budget is as a result of frequent consultations with the people of Guyana, the people who matter. Even though there was a refusal by the AFC and the APNU to come to Dr. Ashni Singh to make their views known, to have their input in the Budget, our people, including the supporters of these two delinquent parties which did not turn up to these consultations, have said what they wanted in this Budget. [Inaudible] a week goes by without me and very senior officers in this Ministry going all over this country, talking to our students, our parents, our teachers, other stakeholders about what we want.
Presently, I see the CPCE Head/Principal, Ms. Viola Row, who was not here on Friday because she had to go to Berbice to conduct a consultation on the draft professional standards for teachers. Mr. Hudson, the Assistance Chief Education Officer (ACEO) Primary, was in Region 1 two days prior to that. We are out every day hearing from our teachers, our students and our parents what it is that they want. We have implemented a new policy that every time we are going to expand infrastructure, build new schools, we are going to go out, take all of our documents with us – all of the BOQs and the drawings and so on – have a community meeting with all who would come but specifically we invite Parent/Teacher Associations (PTAs), staff, parents, students, religious groups, RDCs, NDCs and so on in the area and we describe what we are going to do and then we leave with them documents so that they could keep a close eye on what is happening in the schools so that we could get quality work because we recognise and we are very unhappy with the fact that sometimes we get shoddy work; that does not mean all contractors give us shoddy work, but we have been robbed; the country has been robbed a couple of times. We want to make sure that when we do things, we get value for money, and that is how we do it.
We are also going to launch, shortly, a website that is going to be interactive. It is going to have all our documents – policies, text books and past exam papers - and it is going to have a feature that would allow children to answer exam questions and then we send them an e-mail with what results they got and what was right and what was wrong: children from grades 1 to 6. We are working on secondary soon. There was also going to be a feature where every Thursday between 7.30 a.m. and 9.00 a.m., members of the public could chat with the Minister and senior officers in the Ministry on scheduled topics. We have a Facebook page that is very active.
These are all things that we have done to make sure that we can hear from the people we serve so that we can serve them better. These are things we have done to make sure that we can get our messages out, get our information out when we have information to get out.
It is very important, it is hugely important, that we tighten and fine tune our relationships, our partnerships with parents and with other stakeholders. We are absolutely sure that a student in our care will not have as much and will not be as much as they can be except there is parental or home involvement. For all of the children who have done well, we can trace it back to a good school system; sound investment in the education sector; and involvement of their families, not necessarily wealthy families, but families who stay up and work ‘foot to foot’, in common parlance, with their children, families who get up at night to make sure their children are eating, not necessarily fancy meals, but parents who are involved in their children’s lives.
We just did research which is limited because of the numbers. We have about 710 students who are now coming into nursery school, so they were not in the formal education system before. Some of them went to daycares, and we found that the things children should know at three years and six months, like basic shapes and numbers and recognising and being able to recite their ABCs and counting and basic biographical information – what is your name, where do you live, how old are you – only 32% of our children know this and that, for us, is a bit worrying. We believe that with partnership, if we could get parents to do the supportive work at home, we could better prepare our children. We know that at the Ministry of Education, we have to do two things:
1. Tell parents in a mass way what it is their children need to know; and
2. Tell them how it is they can use their natural environments, not buying charts and gadgets, to teach the things children need to learn.
For example, if one has to teach colours, the grass is green and the sky is blue, one does not have to buy a chart for that. Bring the red bucket. Here is mommy’s orange dress. That is a responsibility we have at the Ministry of Education, but I use this opportunity to make a plea to parents of this country that going forward, even if they cannot read, even if they cannot write... I know parents spend their lives trying to make their children’s lives better; good parents do that. Make a pledge today, parents, that, going forward, you are going to partner with the Ministry - listen to us, hear what we are saying and do the things that we are asking you to do - to make sure your children are best prepared.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, you will require an extension.
Mr. Hinds: Mr. Speaker, I propose that the Hon. Member be granted 15 minutes to continue her presentation.
Question put, and agreed to.
Ms. Manickchand: Mr. Speaker, this year, we want to get a couple of things right. How do we get the basics right? The Budget provides for us to be able to collaborate with the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development to provide adequate furniture for every single child in this country. The Budget is going to allow us. We have written our own nursery reader and the Budget is going to allow us to print this and give it to every single child in nursery so that they could be better prepared.
This year’s Budget will ensure that every child in the primary school system gets the very basic texts – Mathematics, English, Social Studies, Science. We have just written our own, led by Mr. Marcel Hudson, ACEO Primary, and our nursery readers was written by a team led by Ingrid Trotman, the Assistant Chief Education Officer Nursery and they are called the ‘Roraima Readers’. The primary readers that we are writing now, we have to write because we cannot afford to buy books that are published. When we buy those books, we cannot give them to every child so we want to make sure that we, in Guyana, use our skill and expertise, which we have in abundance, to give our children the tools they need to make them prepared. We are presently writing our own readers from grades 1 to 6 and work books. They are going to be called ‘Atlantic Readers’. This is a draft of where we are. We believe that this is going to be the envy of the Caribbean. They are closely aligned to international literacy standards and guidelines so working with this, perfecting this, mastering the work in here, would make sure that we have children who can read by the time they are in Grade 4.
This Budget is going to allow us, in secondary schools, to offer to every child Mathematics books, English books, text books in the single sciences and we are going to be able to continue to deliver, in a timely way, exercise books to all of our children. Every secondary school, by the end of 2014, will be equipped with a computer laboratory that would allow our children to learn online, learn through technology and to make them better prepared for the world that uses information technology now as a matter of necessity.
We will be improving how we address special education needs. Mrs. Volda Lawrence had said, during her presentation, that it was a group of persons that we were leaving behind. I am assuming - although I am probably wrong - that she was speaking about the nation leaving that group of persons behind and the Hon. Member did mention that we have the Blind Unit at St. Roses. Those students moved since the 2nd September and they have been in another far friendlier environment since then. It would be good if Members of this House, as a matter of being responsible, could inform themselves before they come in here and make statements.
Sir, we would be the first to tell you that we are not happy with the way the education sector has been catering for our students with special education needs. We are not happy with that and we are recognising that we are not doing what we are supposed to do and that we are not preparing our children with special education needs as best as we can and making them capable of reaching their maximum potential. We embarked on a consultation across this country which informed what we are going to do for the next five years. People have told us what they want. They want us to make sure we look at how we are preparing our teachers and so one of the things that is going to be done as a matter of priority over the next five years is to make sure all of the teachers coming out of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) are prepared for integrating special education needs children into the classroom. We are going to be looking at making sure our buildings are friendlier and that we can prepare or that we can cater for children with disabilities that do not make them...visual and other disabilities that do not affect their ability to learn. We are committed and we are making sure that every new building we build complies with the Persons Living with Disability Act; that is, we have ramps and we have other toilet facilities and so on that are appropriate.
Teacher training: last year, we continued the upgrading programme in the hinterland communities in Regions 1, 8 and 9, permitting more persons to be eligible to access the Trained Teacher Certificate Programme. One hundred and fifty-nine teachers were certified as completed in 2013. For the first time, we did something that was painful for us but was very necessary and students in the CPCE who failed three or more subjects were asked to apply again to come back into the school. We also are designing, for the first time, a teacher appraisal document. Our teachers, our lecturers at CPCE - I believe there are 23 lectures between CPCE and UG - are doing Masters and PhDs so that they can be better prepared to train our teachers.
I heard Mrs. Volda Lawrence, I think it was, who said that teachers are leaving in hundreds and droves. That is not according to our record - again misinformed. In fact, we have a different problem. Our problem is that our teachers are now returning – I would not say in hundreds and droves because I want to be honest – when they broke their contracts so we now have a problem. These teachers broke their contracts and went away. The policy is, when one comes back, one has to pay off what one owes before one starts, but we want them. These are Guyanese; we do not want to put them out. So we are trying to work out how we could get around the breaking of the contracts, but we do not have a record of teachers migrating in droves or hundreds or whatever other ill-informed message was sent to us.
We intend to, in this year’s Budget, achieve universal secondary education in many regions. That is that every child of secondary age could access a general secondary education. We will be limited because of our geography. I believe that it was the Hon. Member, Mr. Sydney Allicock, who said that children do not want to go to the dorms so we have to put down high schools in every village. I would advise him to get information from Ms. Ally and other people who understand that we cannot build a school in every village. Assuming that we were to find oil and we had all the money in the world, it still would not be in the best interest of those children. What this year’s Budget will allow us to do is to achieve universal secondary education in Region 5... Let us go through the regions:
Region 1: we have some transportation, boats and engines, because sometimes it is not about building a school but it is getting children to the school that is already built.
Region 2: we pretty much already have universal secondary education. We need about eight classrooms.
Region 3: we are building back the Zeeburg Secondary School which will accommodate the students from Zeeburg Secondary and St. John’s Secondary Schools, and we intend to build a thousand-person secondary school at Parfait Harmony.
Region 4: we are building a secondary school at Soesdyke and one at Lusignan to take off the children who are in Primary Tops because that is not the most conducive learning place for them.
Region 5: we are extending the Mahaicony Secondary School and doing some other things across the region that would see Region 5, this year, having universal secondary education.
Region 6: there is some construction work going on at Tutorial Academy and some other places that would see, except for some transportation needs, Region 6 having universal secondary education.
Region 7 needs another school. We need to build a secondary school somewhere up the Mazaruni River. There is talk about whether it should be Jawalla or whether we should expand Waramadong. We are looking at it. Because of where that school is, it is going to cost our country somewhere about $600 million or $700 million so that is not something that we are doing this year. We are looking at how best we can do that, but we know that those children need another school and we commit, in this Government, to building that other school.
Region 8: we are expanding the Mahdia Secondary School. Region 8 would almost have universal secondary education after that. Kato Secondary School is being built and will be completed this year or next year.
Region 9: we have some work to do on schools like St. Ignatius and that will begin shortly.
Region 10: we have pretty much achieved universal secondary education.
This year, we will be able to, with the allocations in the Budget, bring in many of the regions and be able to better prepare our children for Guyana tomorrow.
The University of Guyana is where our children attend to get their tertiary education. There are many courses that are being written there, many students who are being prepared there. In fact, I would like to think that many of us in this House, at some point, attended the University of Guyana and we offer quality service in our various fields. There is an important project, the US$10 million project, that is happening right now that is seeing the reform of 15 curricula and 14 buildings being refurbished completely. We also have – which, for me, is extremely exciting – a grant that we are giving to lecturers, academic staff, that would see 40 different types of research done that directly contribute to our Low Carbon Development Strategy. One of them being done right now is the relationship between corila and cancer. In fact, I can say specifically that the effects of Momordica Charantia, which is corila, on secondary and primary cancer cell lines... This is something that could benefit the world. This is what we are doing at the University of Guyana presently – cutting edge research.
We are also doing four feasibility studies which are expected to be completed, and I think that this is what is important for the nation. We will be looking at the human resources management and then we are doing a feasibility study and this, for me, is exciting and it is for the establishment of a centre for excellence for the study of biodiversity and that would be a centre that would serve the planet, the people of this world, so I am looking forward to that.
Another very important area that we will begin looking at this year, and the Budget is funding it, is a Hinterland Education Improvement Project. We are at the best place in the hinterland regions than we have ever been before. Over the last five years alone, we have created 400 new places for students in dormitories and that is allowing 400 new students every single year to access an education that they would not have been able to access before. We do know, though, that while we are at the best place we have ever been, we can do better in certain areas. What are we doing? We are studying with the people of the hinterland...
We are studying with the people of the hinterland. We will be going village to village talking to parents, teachers and students about the gaps; you have a school but does your school have trained teachers. If the answer is no, do we have housing to put trained teachers in. If the answer is no then how do we build the house? Do you have text books? Do you have exercise books? Is your school feeding working? Do you have space in the dormitories to accommodate the students coming from far flung areas? We will begin that shortly. It will be implemented as soon as we have completed that study. It will make for great headline for us to say we are ready right now because we have a significant portion of the information we need, but it would be undemocratic if we did not hear first from the people of those villages as to what they would want to see happen too. That is going to begin shortly.
Essentially, this Budget allows us in the National Assembly, gives us an opportunity, to treat Guyanese well. It gives us an opportunity to help prepare Guyana’s tomorrow today. It gives us an opportunity as a House, not as the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) because we will do it alone if we have to, but we really do want the support of the Opposition as parties because their people, their supporters, would expect they would do what is right for their children. So while we would do it alone if we have to, as we have been doing for the last twenty years, we would really appreciate the support of the Members of the Opposition. And I say here without reservation, that I can never know all that Hon. Member Amna Ally knows, she has been a Head Teacher for many years, she has experience that I do not have, and I want to hear from her. But wanting to hear from her is a contribution to what the Government programme is; it cannot be to take over the Government. I would like to hear from other teachers and parents in the Opposition and that is why when the Opposition as leaders do not work with us we work with their constituents anyway because we want to hear from them.
Nelson Mandela said...
Mr. Speaker: You have five minutes to wrap up please, Hon. Minister.
Ms. Manickchand: Nelson Mandela, a wise man, said that education is the most powerful weapon in which you can change the world. And Malcolm X, another very wise man, said that education is our passport to the future for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today. These are two people who are world renowned and whose wisdom no sensible person would question. These are people clearly telling us if you want to prepare a country tomorrow for next year or the next twenty years invest in education. These are people who are telling us clearly that the most powerful weapon to change this Guyana would be education. And here is a Government that understands that and invests its money most in the sector of education. Our philosophy and ideology in the PPP/Civic matches wisdom of the world, yet you hear from no lesser a person than the Opposition Leader, Retired Brigadier Granger, that this Budget has nothing. It has to mean that the Opposition is incapable of seeing how important education is to the Nation. So I commit these quotations to these Members so they can understand the fact that we have continuously invested in education means that we are preparing Guyana for twenty years down the line. The fact that we have continuously invested education means that we want to change Guyana from the place it is to the place we would like to see it be; higher up. It is because we have invested in education that we have moved from a low income developing country which could get aid from all over to a medium income country. So we in the PPP/Civic understand how important education is. The failure of the Opposition to understand how important this huge allocation is really speaks to their lack of vision. And I ask them to come on board with us.
I am the geographical Member of Parliament for Region 5 and would like to tell you briefly in my three minutes remaining. Region 5 is a rice farming and cattle farming community. As the daughter of a rice farmer I can tell you the life of a rice farmer is not easy. If it is not a paddy bug one day it is a drought, or it is heavy rainfall, or bad irrigation, or being below sea level and that is why we have bad irrigation. It is a hard life but these are people who last year alone contributed $28 billion to the economy. These are people we must say thank you to. These are people whose families we must support and celebrate. So this thing of how we will take away $500 million and that there is no giving with a pleased heart of the $500 million is really spiteful and selfish. These are the people who are keeping this country.
Region 5 is also the region which rears the largest amount of cattle in the Caribbean. So we celebrate the cattle farmers of Region 5 too, as well as cattle farmers across this country. Mr. Speaker he is not here, he got away, but I wanted to pass a message on publicly to Mr. Greenidge. The people had a meeting at Cotton Tree last two weeks Thursday. The sugar workers asked me if I can tell me they want to see him. They want him to tell them that he is not going to support the sugar industry, their lives and their children’s livelihood, and not hide behind a camera when he is saying it. I am just the messenger, Sir. They asked me to deliver that message to Mr. Greenidge. So they will hear me delivering it publicly.
Because we have farmers we want to support in Region 5, and because we have so much of our economy benefitting, the whole country benefitting from Region 5, there is a significant amount of resources plugged into this year’s Budget to support those farmers and their families. There is going to be major rehabilitation to the Burma Branch Road at the cost of almost $15 million. Burma Sir, you would know, really is a farm to market road for residents. More than 3,000 residents and farmers would benefit from the rehabilitation of this road. There is going to be construction of the street of East Side Line Dam at D’Edward, at the cost of almost $10 million. We are going to be upgrading the street from Main Road to Fourth Cross Street at Bush Lot at the cost of almost $4 million. This would benefit about 1,500 residents. There is going to be rehabilitation of the Sideline Dam at New Scheme, Bush Lot that will benefit more than 1,000 residents at a cost of almost $8 million. There is going to be the construction of a structure at Blairmont, No. 1 settlement, at the cost of $3 million and a structure at the D’Edward, West Bank Demerara where about 150 residents and fishermen will benefit at the cost of almost $2 million. There is going to be the construction of a timber bridge also at Bush Lot. There is going to be the rehabilitation of streets in the areas of Experiment, West Coast Berbice, at more than $5 million; Hope, West Coat Berbice at more than $3.3 million; and Waterloo, West Coast Berbice, at $3.4 million. There is going to be general rehabilitation to the Cococabana Street, Belladrum, at $4 million; Middle Walk, Bath Settlement, at $2 million; and Paris Street, Bel Air, at $4.4 million. $there is going to be general rehabilitation to the timber bridge at Good Faith Mahaicony at more than $4.3 million. And like I said this year Region 5 is going to have the extension of the Fort Wellington Secondary School. We are going to see the provision of a bus. We are going to see Region 5 achieving universal secondary education except for some transportation needs.
Mr. Speaker: Please wrap up Hon. Minister.
Ms. Manickchand: I am wrapping up. We know in the Ministry of Education that while we are at the best place we have ever been we are not happy with where we are. We promise you, Sir, and we promised the people of this Nation, that we will work every day, very hard, tirelessly, to fulfil our commitment to Guyana, that we will deliver to your children what is best for them. We require the partnership of parents and, indeed, of everybody in this National Assembly and all stakeholders in this Nation. So in this examination of where we are now and where we want to be there will be as some, as Dr. Luncheon calls “unfrocking”. We will have to undress ourselves, check to see where we are and then get clothed again and get back on the road. We have no problem with that self appraisal; we have no problems with checking to see where we are, because we know in the PPP/Civic that education is the best place it has been in the history of this country.
I thank you, Sir. [Applause]
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