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JIS News

Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, is calling on private sector entities to assist in developing the infrastructure of schools through the National Education Trust Fund, in a bid to create a more productive labour force.
“Entrepreneurs understand the extremely important link between the development of the human resource and the development of the intellectual property, that it is your human resource that is going to create the ideas you are going to convert into profitable goods and services. On that basis, I would encourage the private sector to invest heavily in education,” Minister Holness emphasized.
He made the comment during a recent interview with the JIS News at his Ministry’s offices in Kingston.
The private sector is one of the many partners being targeted by the Ministry of Education, through its Back to School theme, ‘Education it’s a Partnership’.
“It will save them quite a bit, if we are able to bring the human resources up to the standard that they need, so when they hire they don’t have to go through their internal private process of training. It is better that they spend the money now than spend it later in training. So the National Education Trust Fund will be the agency that manages the partnerships between the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the private sector, and that partnership, at least for the next 10 years, should be focused on developing the infrastructure of all our schools,” he pointed out.
According to the Education Minister, the development of the schools’ infrastructure will assist the Ministry in eliminating the shift system.
“Many of our schools are over 40-50 years old; the infrastructure is at its limit particularly at the secondary level. The shift system, where we double utilize the space, is a signal that we simply don’t have the infrastructure capacity. But now is the time to build out the infrastructure. We are at a point in time where we can properly plan, because our population growth particularly at the early ages is leveling off. And if you look at the statistics for the last 20 years, you will see a .dramatic shift downwards. you can remove the shift system and over time we will also reap the benefits of a reduced class size. So I want to engage our partners in corporate Jamaica to assist us in this process,” the Minister stated.
According to Mr. Holness, the Government’s budget for education amounts to $58 billion, which covers recurrent expenses, such as paying teachers’ salaries; paying for programmes in literacy; nutrition; and dealing with administration. Of this sum, he pointed out, only $2 billion went to infrastructure.
“We need $40 billion to build 100 schools to deal adequately with the shift system, and that’s a moving target each year as inflation increases,” he explained, while noting that the National Education Trust Fund will assist in the process.
“It’s not an extremely difficult task. There are ways to do it and the first thing is to secure a guaranteed source of funding that is not impacted by the fiscal demands at any period of time. So we need to create an institution, and we have already determined that institution to be the National Education Trust Fund,” Minister Holness informed.
He explained that the National Education Trust Fund will be quasi government, but will need a secured source of funding.
“We have been identifying what the source of funding for that institution will be. The Government, itself, must make a commitment to funding infrastructure development, so it is either that the Government will have to give us a portion of the education tax out of the Consolidated Fund in a dedicated stream, or make a one off endowment to the Trust,” he pointed out.
The Education Minister also noted his support for gaming taxes to be used to fund infrastructure development, explaining that, “in many other institutions education is funded, particularly infrastructure by gaming taxes, I am not averse to that,” he said.
Continuing, he noted that “if we must have gambling and [it] has these social ills, then the best way to remedy those ills, if they occur in any persistent way in our society, is through education. And so, I am of the firm belief that if we do have casino gambling, then the tax revenues from that should come straight to the National Education Trust Fund”.
In the meantime, he noted that the Fund would be particularly supportive of newer schools, and address the disparity they face.
“Many of the schools that have been built from trust funds have significant private sector assistance, primarily because they have been around for a long time, and they have built up a significant alumni. But the new schools that have been around for 40 years or less, have not developed that culture. They don’t have that wealthy alumni that they can draw on,” he informed.
Additionally, he explained, “If we allow the system to continue as it is, we will continue to see a great disparity in the quality of education, because those schools that have direct links into a wealthy alumni will grow, and those schools that don’t will continue to operate at the lower levels. And so, you have to see the National Education Trust Fund as a means of bridging the gap and equalizing the funding across the system to ensure equity,” Minister Holness stated.