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Minister of Education and Youth, Maxine Henry Wilson, has said that despite the damage that some 350 schools sustained during Hurricane Dean on August 19, the government is determined to have a smooth start to the 2007/08 academic year.
In a back-to-school broadcast, on (Aug. 30), Mrs. Henry Wilson informed that preliminary estimates from the Ministry’s regional and technical teams indicate that approximately $700 million would be required to repair these institutions. “This figure may increase, once all the estimates are in,” the Minister noted.
The reports suggest that roofing accounted for most of the damage sustained, she said.
Turning to general preparations that have been made for the new school year, she said emphasis was being placed on the readiness of school plants and that this has been assisted by the on-going efforts at physical maintenance and refurbishing, which was an integral part of the transformation of the entire education system.
“We have developed an inventory of those institutions that need repairs and have initiated a programme for the construction of new schools and expansion of others. In some instances we have focused on provision of critical facilities, such as sanitation blocks, canteens, reading rooms, staff facilities,” Mrs. Henry Wilson said.
She explained that the over 3,000 classroom spaces that are being added was a move towards the implementation of universal secondary education, and to this end, some $1.5 billion has been allocated to “bring our schools to the required state of readiness and provide more spaces for the coming school year.”
“Our objective is to reduce class size and phase out the shift system,” the Minister pointed out.Eleven schools will be taken off the shift system and others added during the course of the year. Another important programme is the on-going initiative of classroom furniture for students and teachers. “A total of 190,000 pieces of furniture have been provided over the past two years, valued at $586 million. Many schools had their new furniture stored in preparation for the new school year,” she informed.
Mrs. Henry Wilson said that with the passage of the hurricane, if there are schools with critical furniture needs, immediate contact should be made with their regional offices to “attempt to settle the issue of availability.”
“The shortage of furniture should not be an issue at the opening of this school year,” the Minister emphasized.