JIS News

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the National Education Trust (NET), Paul Matalon, says between 90 and 100 new schools are needed with at least 120,000 spaces, to alleviate the space deficit in the education system at the secondary level.
At the primary level, there is a deficit of 68,100 spaces, with a requirement of 53 schools to meet the demand.
“In analysing where the shortages are, we found that the highest secondary deficit in the system would be in St. Catherine, based on the growth and development of that whole area, where 30,000 spaces are required,” Mr. Matalon told JIS News in an interview.
“Clarendon falls right behind with a deficit in the region of 13,000; Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Elizabeth also have deficits within that 10,000 to 13,000 region,” he added.
The NET is the executing agency for the Government’s strategic objectives in enabling and maintaining investments in education.
Mr. Matalon explained that one of the mandates of the NET is to eliminate the current school space deficit across the primary and secondary levels of the system.
With regard to the other parishes, St. James has a 9,900 space deficit at the secondary level; St. Ann, 9,595; Westmoreland, 8,196 and Manchester, 6,418. The remaining parishes have deficits of less than 5,000 spaces. St. Mary is short of 4,766 spaces; Trelawny, 4,543; Portland, 4,541; St. Thomas, 4,240 and Hanover, 1,465 spaces.
“The NET’s mandate is also to address the maintenance programme as an overall new initiative, not like what exists now, where schools are allocated a small portion of money, but to incorporate it regionally to institute ongoing annualised maintenance programmes, to allow for the preservation of the existing school infrastructure,” Mr. Matalon explained.
He noted that it makes no sense to spend millions of dollars building a new school and there is no maintenance programme going forward.
Already, the NET, with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), has commenced plans for the first two new schools, to be built in Mandeville, Manchester and in Cedar Grove, St. Catherine.
“This programme is underway, pre-qualifications have commenced and we anticipate that by the end of the year, the contracts will be finalised and awarded by early January, to allow for a 12 to 18-month build out of those two schools, so that is the foundation on which the NET has started,” Mr. Matalon informed.
The NET has a Board of Directors, which reports directly to the Minister of Education. The members are drawn from a wide cross section of disciplines, including banking, construction, education, legal, architecture and engineering, accounting and financial investment. The NET is expected to be launched later this year.

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