KINGSTON — Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, says the 20011/2012 school year began on September 5 with few glitches.
Mr. Holness pointed out that of the more than 1,000 schools; he was exposed to only 20 complaints. “Credit must be given to the hardworking principals, vice principals, teachers, ancillary staff, administrative staff and the staff at the Ministry of Education who worked overtime to ensure that the little that we have, that it stretched, that it met the priority areas,” he said.
Speaking at the official launch of the 2011/2012 school year at the St. Richard’s Primary School, in Kingston, today, the Minister said that on Sunday, September 4, the schools were ready to receive the 650,000 Jamaicans who go to school.
Mr. Holness pointed out that the reduction in funds has not resulted in cessation of services offered by the Ministry, and that due to repositioning of service delivery, the Ministry had realised some savings.
"Although we have faced budget cuts, we have made budget savings. We have implemented, in a deliberate way, cost saving measures. We have saved on text books, almost $300 million. We have now just approved at Cabinet, divestment of Nutrition Products Limited, and that will save us, on our nutrition budget, $200 million every year, plus it will save us the cost of retooling the factory,” the Minister said.
He told the gathering that schools that were slated for construction this year have been listed for erection next year, and that there are challenges from persons who do not want schools in population centres.
The Minister said the phase-out of the shift system will be slowed if obstacles are put in the way of building new schools. “That has to be resolved. In Mandeville (Manchester), there is a raging debate on the location that we have chosen for the school. I would not have had a problem if it were the first location, but this is the second location that we have found. In St. Catherine, we have had to move a school planned to be built there, three times. So, the building of the school is not just the financing,” Mr. Holness said.
He argued that if the schools cannot be built close to the population centres, they would have to be constructed farther away, and this is going to result in increased cost for transportation and security. “This is a debate that the nation must have,” the Minister emphasised.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter