Former Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) President Clinton Urling said the $2 billion set aside to assist children in the public education sector could have been better spent in other areas.
Speaking at a recent press conference, Urling said “We are particularly pleased with the social programmes contained in the budget to help struggling families get their kids to school,” but on the same note, “the said money could have been channelled towards increasing the salaries of teachers and ranks of the Guyana Police Force”.
In an effort to provide additional support to parents with school aged children, the Donald Ramotar administration will this year provide a cash grant to parents of every child attending a nursery, primary or secondary school in the public education system. For every child, parents would receive $10,000 for 2014.
“This grant can be used to meet such costs as transportation, and will provide added impetus to raising enrolment and attendance rates, in addition to having the effect of increasing the disposable incomes of parents of school aged children,” Dr Singh had said in his budget presentation. This initiative is expected to benefit approximately 188,406 families.
According to Urling, for this programme to be effective, appropriate mechanisms will have to be put in place to ensure that the funds allocated fulfil its objective. Failure to implement the requisite systems can result in logistical and resource problems during implementation, he argued. He further opined that to ensure efficacy, the Government would have to spend and utilise additional resources, both human and financial.
“This measure also raises the question as to whether the monies allocated could not have been allocated to increase teachers’ salaries or increase the salaries of the Guyana Police Force. It would be much easier to do in terms of implementation and the cost of doing so would have been cheaper,” the outgoing GCCI President argued.
But besides this suggestion, GCCI said it was pleased with the 2014 national budget, describing it as “a steady, attractive and people-friendly budget, building on the achievements of its predecessors”.
Move in right direction
The GCCI’s suggestion came days after the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) said the Government could have made a meaningful contribution to the education sector by using the $2 billion to purchase boats and school buses to transport children from their homes to their respective schools. Responding to the suggestion made by the GCCI, several teachers across the country said the $10,000 is a move in the right direction.
Marlyn Young, Headmistress of the Hope Secondary School, East Coast Demerara, related that the increase in the salaries of teachers, whether it be $10,000 or more, will be a most welcome gesture.
“You cannot even afford a small vacation from the salary you as a teacher receive. If you do have financial back up or support from other persons in the home or family environment, there would be many things that you will not be able to afford,” she noted.
The professional, who has been a teacher for over 39 years, told this publication the teachers are the most important persons in the education system, but are paid meagre salaries for a big job. She noted that any increase to the already small salary will go a big way in initiating better performances from the teachers and contribute to an increased standard of living for them.
Another teacher, Colleen Ramkissoon who serves as the Headmistress for the Mon Repos Primary School, stated that while she believes many will welcome the initiative, the money can be used for a different purpose; one which can benefit the lower classes.
“First of all, when this money is given to the parents, it does not mean that they are going to be attending schools because parents can very well collect the money and then stop the child from school. There is no way the Government can monitor how the money is spent. If they want to assist the students, then they can implement a kitchen system where meals can be prepared every day and given to the children in the primary and secondary schools that are from unfortunate backgrounds and cannot afford even a meal a day,” she related.
However, she supported the call for the money to be added to the salaries of the policemen and a teacher, noting that the money is too little for a challenging task.
“As a teacher, you have to be very, very passionate about teaching and children or else you will not make it. The salary is small and teachers and policemen always welcome whatever little can be added to it,” Ramkissoon shared.
She noted that this amount can be added to the uniform allowances of teachers, which is $8000, when a good working shoe is $8500.