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The Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund has announced that it will make available $30 million to assist in the reconstruction efforts in the education sector, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan on September 10.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CHASE, Billy Heaven made this disclosure at the weekly JIS ‘Think Tank’, held on October 27 at the JIS headquarters on Half-Way-Tree Road.
Mr. Heaven indicated that the initial figure was subject to change, if there was further demand for assistance, once the allocation was exhausted.
“If there is obvious need for capital injection, then we will review the amount allocated and make more funds available on that basis,” the CEO said.
The allotment will cover repairs to affected schools, specifically basic schools, which will be selected from a database that the Fund compiled after the passage of Hurricane Ivan. The compilation was done by conducting onsite visits to schools, as well as working closely with the regional offices of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture.
“We wanted to identify the basic schools that had been affected, and to determine the degree of the damage suffered. We have done this because we do not want to spread our efforts too thinly, so it is not felt. We want to have a meaningful impact,” Mr. Heaven informed.
With over 300 schools affected, the Fund will commence working with those schools that suffered the most damage. “The damage that we speak of is the type that will either prevent the schools, to a great extent, from having classes, or that impacts so significantly on the teaching process, that it is not effective,” the CEO said.
Mr. Heaven pointed out that the preliminary estimates gathered from quantity surveyors as well as other technical support, indicated that the repair work for the schools in the database could exceed $150 million.
The CEO also noted that the Fund was working closely with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), which is providing financial assistance to repair schools, and the Office of National Reconstruction (ONR), which has a mandate to spearhead and anchor the programmes and activities necessary for full and expeditious national recovery, in the aftermath of the hurricane.
The sharing of information from these and other institutions engaged in the process of reconstruction prevented overlap and duplication, Mr. Heaven explained.
“It also helps because we benefit from the synergies of working together, and it helps us to compile a comprehensive database. It is significant that we combine our efforts,” he said.
As for when the process of disbursing the funds will commence, the CEO said that currently CHASE was finalising the database and, that a “critical list”, as it pertained to the schools most affected, was being compiled.
Mr. Heaven assured that after this process was completed, tenders for various repair work would be issued. The duration of this activity, he said, could take three weeks.
The CHASE Fund, which was established in 2002, began operation in early 2003 to use the portion of the cess paid by the lottery company, to fund projects in culture, health, arts, sports and early childhood education.