By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Education and training received the highest allocation in the 2020-2021 budget. This is a change from previous years when National Security received the highest followed by Education, and Health. The latter has received the second highest followed by National Security.
The COVID-19 pandemic and emphasis on virtual learning has resulted in an injection of $50 million in the education sector. In his Budget statement Monday, October 5 in the parliament, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the money will be used to acquire computers for needy students. He also referred to the September 5 policy decision to remove taxes on computers, laptops and tablets “in time for the reopening of schools and education institutions”. The Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) 2021 document stated the money will be used to acquire and deliver laptops to secondary students and tablets for primary.
To continue construction and upgrade of primary schools, $63.9 million was allocated to be used as follows: “settlement of previous commitments and the restoration of approximately 300 primary schools, by way of an allotment of $20.0 million to the Improvement, Refurbishment and Extensions to Primary Schools programme”. The PSIP indicated stated the refurbishment schedule, includes electrical, sewer, plumbing, flooring, ceiling and roofing repairs. An allocation of $1.5 million was budgeted to replace derelict furniture in new primary schools, outfitting them with new furniture and equipping. For emergency and unplanned repairs, $2 million was allocated. This is a “pre-emptive” measure to reduce the occurrence of school shutdowns, due to health and safety issues, fires and natural disasters. To settle payments to final accounts and outstanding consultancy fees for 11 primary schools $12.2 million was budgeted. They are: New Grant Government, Egypt Village Government, St. Barbara’s Spiritual Shouter Baptist, Union Presbyterian, Tranquility Government, Monkey Town Government, Rio Claro Presbyterian, Flanigan Town RC, Lower Cumuto Government, Egypt Oasis Primary, Eckel Village AC, St. Clements Vedic and Freeport SDMS, Construction of Arima Hindu Primary, Montrose APS (Vedic) and Woodbrook Presbyterian.
An investment of $32.5 million was provided for “various projects aimed at improving and expanding the secondary schools’ infrastructure”. The PSIP stated “most of the resources”, $25 million, will be used for refurbishment and upgrades on some existing secondary schools which are decades old and have deteriorated. St Mary’s College Port of Spain was identified for outfitting and equipping of the Science Laboratories, installation of a new public address system and refurbishment of toilets.
The sum of $3 million is earmarked under the project Replacement/Construction of New Blocks within existing secondary schools, $2 million will go toward “outfitting works” including procurement of furniture and equipment. Another $3 million is “for secondary school construction and other infrastructure works”.
The sum of $10 million will be allotted for the School Improvement Project (SIP) in Laventille. It provides Literacy Teacher Training and Development, Numeracy Teacher Training and Development, Promoting Discipline in Schools, Parenting in Education and Upgrade of Infrastructure and Aesthetics. The report said, “Major benefits realised from the implementation of this project, impacting 6,400 participants since fiscal 2017 include: improved student performance; upgraded physical infrastructure and recreational amenities; greater parenting and community involvement and reduced indiscipline and violence in schools within the community”.
The State Enterprises Investment Programme 2021 stated the Finance Ministry entered into contract with the National Maintenance Training and Security Company Limited (MTS) for the provision of project management services for the completion of construction and outfitting of 27 priority schools. Phase One is assessment works undertaken to complete the projects and evaluation of existing contracts “to determine whether the scope of works needed to be re-scoped or re-negotiated”. Phase Two involves the sourcing of funds and the agreed scope of works to commence remedial works/construction. The document stated “the number of priority schools was reduced from 27 to 24, with one school still to be costed”. Three schools were started and completed in fiscal 2020— Wallerfield ECCE, Hillview College and Belmont Boys RC— at an estimated cost of $4.7 million, $11.6 million and 3.0 million, respectively.
“This project involves the construction of a new additional block to house various extra-curricular school activities”. Cost has been estimated at $26.7 million and the estimated expenditure for fiscal 2021 is $25.3 million.