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Grant delays causing stress

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

The delay in grant payments to Catholic schools is having a “severe impact”, with cleaners and security staff owed and a couple schools having to take loans. Education Minister Anthony Garcia however, has said payment will be made “shortly”.

The Catholic News has learnt the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) has not received the grant to pay janitorial staff at its primary schools since October. In the interim, money was sourced to continue paying salaries but these have been exhausted.

Meanwhile, “auxiliary grants” for the school year 2017–2018 for the six secondary schools (St Francis Boys’, St Joseph’s College, Presentation College, Chaguanas and Presentation College, San Fernando, St Benedict’s College, and Matelot Community College) under the CEBM are also owed.

The grant pays the salaries of security and sanitation staff, short-term staff, and operational costs such as telephone bills. Things are so grim, two schools had to take loans. The loans cover costs for the first term, September–December, and must be repaid with interest because the arrangement does not extend to the January term.

In addition, “Minor Equipment” grants for these secondary schools were not received last term. The grant is used to provide resources including laboratory equipment and materials needed by students to fulfil the requirements of the curriculum.

At a media briefing last Tuesday at the Education Towers, Port of Spain, to discuss plans for the new school term and other matters, Minister Garcia said the ministry was unable to provide payments as it normally would.

He said denominational boards received assistance from the government to pay ancillary staff but “because of a cash-flow situation we have been unable to provide that money as regularly as we would have liked”. He had spoken to the Director of Finance and assured payment would be “made shortly”.

Speaking with the Catholic News, Garcia explained that although the ministry had received an allocation of $7 billion in the 2018 Budget this did not mean the full sum was accessible right away. The funds are released during the fiscal year.  Based on government revenue from taxes etc. the money is disbursed to various ministries.

“We depend a lot on the revenue we get and we will not get revenue to sustain a budget of $7 billion right away,” he said.