JIS News

Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry Wilson last night (April 7) declared that she had accepted the education budget and was willing to perform well with the allocation.
Fielding questions from Opposition members at the 15-hour sitting of the Standing Finance Committee at Gordon House, the Education Minister said that despite the fact that the 2004/05 budget for education had been increased by 0.1 per cent instead of the one per cent agreed on in a resolution between government and the Opposition, “at the end of the day, there is also the issue of what is possible.we have certain fiscal and monetary targets to meet. If we don’t meet them, not only will the resolution be unfulfilled, but all the other things will be unfulfilled”.
Elaborating, she said: “Our concern is making sure we deliver education of a quality that is world class and that we can be proud of. My resolve is to find a way to meet the objectives of the resolution”. As set out in the resolution the education budget is to be increased by one per cent annually to bring it to 15 per cent of the country’s total budget over time.
Mrs. Henry Wilson noted that even prior to the tabling of the Estimates of Expenditure there had been widespread concern about the state of education and its capacity to create a better society and a world-class employable workplace. “Let me emphasize, we have not taken the resolution lightly and are committed to honouring this solemn undertaking,” she assured, adding that despite the shortfall in the increase, by any stretch of the imagination, the education budget was a large one and that economic constraints had to be recognized.
The Education Minister said national growth was an inarguable imperative and that the quality of the country’s education system was integral to this thrust. “I believe that it is better to have one per cent of a real growing budget than one in which debt is really what is growing,” she stated.
Mrs. Henry Wilson informed that the strategy to be employed for education in 2004/2005 was to select three to four strategic interventions to improve quality, efficiency and the delivery of education at the school site and classroom level. She said preliminary work was being done by the political directorate and officers in the Ministry and that the public would be duly informed of the specific programmes and contours of these interventions.
The Ministry’s main priorities for this fiscal period include early childhood; literacy; distance education; education management information system; executive management information system and training.
Organisation efficiencies such as district model and streamlining of school feeding will also be addressed.Mrs. Henry Wilson pointed out that while there was no denying that this would be an extraordinarily challenging year for her Ministry, the challenges would be tackled. The total recurrent and capital budget for education is $30.2 billion, $4 billion of which will be allocated to the University of the West Indies.

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