–in the sum of a whopping $52B, to fund, inter alia, a robust COVID-19 project, the construction and rehabilitation of schools

The education sector has been allocated a whopping $52 billion under the National 2020 Budget, and among some of the top provisions accounted for in the budget are the construction and rehabilitation of schools countrywide to the tune of $1.7B; the funding of a ‘COVID-19 Accelerated Programme’ in the sum of $500M; and $3 billion allocated to the University Of Guyana (UG).

Other measures under the budget include plans for the establishment of a “Learning Radio station” to work in conjunction with the expanded and improved Learning Channel, as the Ministry of Education (MoE) looks towards finding alternative options of education delivery during the COVID-19 situation, where schools are closed.
For yet another year, education has been allotted the largest share of the national budget, with the $52 million accounting for some 15.8 per cent of the overall $330 billion budgeted for this year. The amount is almost on par with the $52.2 billion that was allocated to the sector in the 2019 Budget, when it had accounted for 17.4 per cent of that year’s budgetary allocations.
The education allocation was unveiled by Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill who presented the National 2020 Budget on Tuesday at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre (ACCC).

With public schools being closed for most of the year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic which first hit Guyana in March, as was only to be expected, much of the education budget focuses on measures of providing alternative education delivery to students.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in the world and in our own country,” Minister Edghill said, adding: “[Though] we will not be reopening schools in a traditional sense, we will deliver education safely and effectively, using innovative methods; assessing the specific needs of students by levels, grades, regions and situations. Over $300 million is allocated to these blended learning options.”

For capital projects, the $500 million allocated to the “COVID-19 Accelerated Programme” is expected to cater for development and learning packages for the students, as well as for the provision of interactive radio, television and web-based lessons, a sensitization programme, and psychosocial support.
This allocation is accompanied by another $325.019 million that has been allocated to the “Resource Development Centre” project, which caters for the provision of new learning channels, utilising digital platform.

“Throughout the levels, grades and regions,” the minister said, “government has embarked on instruction in different ways to deliver to our learners. The nursery students will be given individual home-based packages containing print material, manipulatives and other appropriate resources. The primary and secondary students will each receive workbooks and the core text books in Math, English, Social Studies and Science, which they will use during this time and beyond.”
As pertains to the expansion of the Learning Channel, Minister Edghill noted that the Channel, in its current state, fails to meet needs across the country, and as such an upgrade was deemed necessary.
“We will expand and upgrade so that six (6) channels can run concurrently. This upgrade will also permit for hinterland communities that are currently unserved to be catered for,” he said. “In conjunction with this channel, we have provided funds in this Budget to establish a radio station which will be dedicated to delivering education,” he added.

Under the “COVID-19 Accelerated Programme” project, provision for training is also covered. During his speech, Minister Edghill noted that the MoE is rolling out several development programmes to improve the capacity of teachers, particularly in upgrading their ability to deliver education virtually.

“The MOE launched, recently, a mass teacher training exercise, which will see all teachers across the country being trained in the delivery of education, using ICT effectively. Provision is [also] made in this Budget for the Cyril Potter College of Education to facilitate learning continuity in hinterland centres of teacher education, and to facilitate the virtual teacher education programme,” Edghill noted.

The undertakings of the “COVID-19 Accelerated Programme” is being funded through a $735 million financial provision by the UNICEF.
Even as the Ministry of Education focuses on putting in place measures to mitigate the effects of school closures, Edghill noted that plans are still afoot to prepare the school buildings for eventual reopening, with monies set aside to ensure the implementation of safety measures at the school facilities.
“The safety and well-being of our people is paramount. In anticipation of an eventual school reopening, provisions have been made for schools to be retrofitted with the necessary infrastructure to exist in a COVID-19 world. Sinks with running water, proper ventilation, working toilets, the delivery of masks to our teachers, students and ancillary staff, and adequate signage to promote safe behaviour in all learning institutions, and in all schools are catered for in this Budget,” he noted.
In allocations to the various school levels, nursery schools have been apportioned $41.653 million that includes the construction of buildings at Starters and Martyrsville Nursery Schools; primary schools were given $66.754 million for projects that include construction at the David Rose Special School, and the establishment of Information Technology (IT) labs at varying schools.
Secondary schools, on the other hand, have been collectively allocated $291 million, which includes provisions for the establishment of science laboratories and smart classrooms; construction of a sanitary block at the West Ruimveldt Secondary School; and construction at the Yarrowkabra Secondary and St Rose’s High School.
Another $29.395 million has been allocated to President’s College for various measures, including upgrades to that school’s ICT infrastructure.

Under the “Secondary Education Improvement Project”, some $750 million has been allotted to continue construction on the La Parfaite Harmonie/Westminster and Good Hope Secondary Schools, as well as for the capacity strengthening of secondary school mathematics teachers.
Under the “Skills Development and Employability Project (SDEP)”, which includes undertakings such as the hospitality institute and revision of the technical vocational curriculum, some $217 million has been allocated.

At the tertiary level, there are several projects scheduled for UG.
“To support our tertiary institution, government has allocated $3 billion to the University of Guyana. Of this amount, $221.3 million is allocated to complete and advance several roll-over projects across both campuses, including the new sewer system, the human resources and bursary building, the pump house, teaching learning centre, and electrical upgrade projects,” Edghill shared during his address.

Within the $3 billion, some $213.256 million is allocated for works at the University’s Turkeyen campus; $8 million is earmarked for the Berbice campus, and $16.8 million has been set aside for the construction of a state-of-the-art library facility at Turkeyen.