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Prime Minister Bruce Golding has underscored the importance of improving the education sector, with particular emphasis on early childhood education. In this regard, he said that the Government has started a series of discussions with some multilateral agencies in an effort to raise funds to properly finance the sector. The Prime Minister was giving the keynote address at the Palmyra Foundation fund-raising event, held on the grounds of the Shoppes of Rose Hall in Montego Bay, on December 8.
“We have already started discussions with some multilateral agencies, such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the European Commission, and we have had discussions with the Caribbean Development Bank. We are trying to see if we can get some consensus on syndicating the level of multilateral support that would be necessary.and we are in the process now of preparing the initial project documents for submission,” he pointed out.
In the 2004 Report of the Task Force on Education, led by former President of the University of Technology (UTech), Dr. Rae Davis, it was recommended that the education sector needed an additional $22 billion annually over the next 10 years.
The Prime Minister emphasized that it was necessary to seek the financial support as the present $30 billion per annum expenditure on education in Jamaica has been found to be grossly inadequate by the Task Force. He said that the recommended additional $22 billion was beyond the capacity of the country.
“It is just not possible to secure that level of additional funding, without displacing other critical areas of expenditure that you cannot afford to ignore,” he added.
Mr. Golding said that with the report over three years old, it was quite likely that the recommended increase needed for the transformation of the education sector could be more, due to escalation in prices. He pointed out that the administration has taken a decision that if it could not raise the recommended amount of $22 billion, then perhaps it would be necessary to segment the needs, identify manageable areas and tackle them.
If that approach has to be taken, “then naturally the area that we would want to start with is early childhood education,” noting that it was the belief in his administration that this area was manageable.
“If we cannot take on the whole job one time; if we cannot deal with all of the levels (in the education sector) that need to be supported by additional resources; if we can do no more, let’s start with early childhood education. Let us make sure that every child in Jamaica can go to a good basic school where there is good furniture and adequate material and teachers, where they get a good, sound and solid foundation education,” the Prime Minister emphasised.
He argued that an excellent early childhood education was the best foundation for all.
The Palmyra Foundation, which has been in operation for some six months, has as its main aim the provision of books for all the school children in the parish of St. James. Chairperson for the Foundation, Kathi Constanzo, told the gathering that in its first three months of operation, the Foundation raised some $4.4 million, and had supplied approximately 2,000 children in the parish with all their text books, totalling more than 15,000 books. She added that the goal of the Foundation has been expanded to include all of the public school children throughout Jamaica, with a five-year goal to distribute over one million text books.