Education Ministry Wants $1.7 Billion to Build Six New Schools


The Education Ministry has made a submission to Cabinet for an additional $1.7 billion to construct six new schools for the 2008/2009 school year, to address the shortage of space at the secondary level.
“This is an immediate problem that we need to solve, as it will have significant impact on the provision of school places come April, when we start to prepare for the Grade Six Achievement Test (G-SAT),” said Education Minister, Andrew Holness at the (Dec. 11) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
He informed that the $1.7 billion that is being sought, falls under the infrastructure component of the Education Transformation Programme. The funds are necessary, he said, as the original $5 billion, which was transferred from the National Housing Trust (NHT) to finance the upgrading of education facilities across the island, has been exhausted.
Minister Holness told journalists that he has been instructed by Cabinet to discuss the issue further with the Ministry of Finance and Public Service, which will seek to identify the funds. “We are going to be moving ahead on that very swiftly to ensure that come September 2008, we don’t have a space problem as we have been having now for the past few years,” the Education Minister noted.
In the meantime, Mr. Holness said that the government plans to establish a national education trust fund to maintain school infrastructure. “The Ministry. will have to shed much of the things that it is doing now such as construction and maintenance. We need to have a dedicated fund from which we can draw to maintain the infrastructure that we are building now,” he pointed out.
On other matters, Mr. Holness informed that as part of the Education Transformation Programme, the Ministry intends to remove the shift system from schools where it currently exists, as well as lower the teacher to pupil ratio from 42:1 to 35:1.
He also announced that the Gordon Town All-age School in St. Andrew will be re-named the Louise Bennett Coverley Primary School in honour of the late folklorist and cultural icon, who was a resident of that community.

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