Manickchand talks up equitable access to education and free university plans in Budget debate

Manickchand talks up equitable access to education and free university plans in Budget debate

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand has announced that 33% of the $94.4 billion budgeted for the education sector will be used to construct new schools, upgrade others and provide other necessary infrastructure to facilitate learning.

She used part of her budget debate presentation to rubbish criticism from the Opposition, that there continues to be inequitable access to education in Guyana.

 “In 2019, $3.7B was allocated for the Education Capital Budget, the coalition sent back 58% of that – $1.6B – because they couldn’t spend it. They couldn’t spend it because it is not important. Access and building schools and institutions is not important, that is what the APNU Representative in this House said, so it’s a philosophy sir. In 2017, they allocated 8% of the Education Budget to capital works, in 2018, 6%; in 2019, 9%; in 2022, the PPP allocated 23%; in 2023 we allocated 33% of the Education Budget towards capital works,” Minister Manickchand told the House.

She said contrary to the utterances coming from the opposition benches, the PPP/C Administration is investing heavily in education to improve access to quality education. According to the Education Minister, the country is inching closer towards universal secondary education.

The National Assembly was told that the Education Ministry intends to spend $3.7 billion to procure textbooks for the more than 193,000 public school children across the country this year.

“Text books, in 2023, we are going to be spending $3.7B on textbooks and this would allow us to give every single student in this country, nursery, primary and secondary all the textbooks they need, except for the enrichment courses. All the text books they need,” Minister Manickchand said.

Further, the Education Ministry will be injecting another $2.1 billion into the school feeding programme, the Minister said.

And faced with a barrage of criticism over the Government’s failure to reinstitute free tertiary education at the University of Guyana, the Minister assured the House that the university tuition fees will be zeroed in the coming years.

“We heard what people wanted and we said very clearly, we are going to find a pathway to remove the debt that students had already incurred, former students and current students and we are going to make the University free in the first five years. And do you know why people are not worried? Because every other promise we made, every other promise we made has been fulfilled,” she said.

The Minister of Education said while the Opposition is pressing Government to provide free tertiary education, it was under the very Coalition that the University of Guyana Council hiked the tuition fees by 35% in August 2017.

The Government of Guyana through the GOAL initiative has been providing full scholarships for citizens to study at a number of international universities. The GOAL programme carries a hefty price tag.

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