KINGSTON — Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, says partnerships between Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's), the private sector and the Government can significantly ease the space challenge in the education system and transform under-performing schools.
"The best gift that we could give Jamaica for its 50th year, is to build even five new schools, and make them centres of excellence. We make them schools in which we can empower the next generation, that will take us through the next 50 years," the Minister told a conference of Foundations/NGOs looking at issues in education, on Wednesday (October 12), at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston.
"The long term impact would come from a pooling of the resources, building the infrastructure and saying to the Government, ‘instead of you trying to find the capital, upfront expenditure, you take care of the recurrent expenditure,” the Minister encouraged the audience at the forum.
Noting that their investment in the education sector would create more space and sustain quality output, he said that the Government could always manage the recurrent expenditure, but what the Government finds difficult to manage is to put the capital expenditure upfront.
"The Government would have to go and borrow, so it is a far more sustainable way of solving this infrastructure problem than we have,” he told his audience.
Mr. Holness said that investment in the building of a school does not have to be a one time expenditure, as the model pursued by his Ministry does Grades 7 and 9, followed by Grades 8 and 10 and finally Grade 11.
“We must build more schools. The existing school stock that we have simply cannot accommodate all the students that are qualified for school. We have started the process of trying to rescue and improve schools that are not performing. That will take sometime, but we also need to build schools to accommodate that 18 percent of the population aged 14 to 16,” he said.
The Minister reasoned that a solid partnership was struck at the creation of the traditional schools, and if these partnerships are reached again they could lead to the creation of a new set of traditional schools.
Mr. Holness noted that the idea of the traditional school was built around the old English grammar school custom, of a strong academic, cultural and personal development curriculum.
"Nothing is wrong with that, (but) in today’s world, you must add technical skills and vocation. I have developed a performa proposal that I intend to circulate to the NGO sector, private sector to partner with the Ministry of Education in building the schools," he asserted.
The demand for school spaces is in excess of 150 schools, 94 at the Secondary and 57 at the Primary level. The National Education Trust (NET), established in 2010, is entrusted with pursuing important developmental and infrastructural initiatives with the private sector and NGOs, to mobilize capitals for construction of buildings.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter