CASTRIES: Former Education Minister Arsene James has criticized the Dr. Kenny Anthony administration for the amount of money set aside to finance the repairs of schools across the island.
James, in his contribution to the 2014/2015 Budget Debate, said the allocation of EC$1 million (EC$1= 37 US cents) cannot fix the number of schools in dire need of repair.
A former schoolteacher, the Micoud South MP said the welfare of the island’s youth must be protected, while emphasising that school repairs are important to maintaining a clean and safe environment for learning.
He said several schools need to be repaired and unless this is done, they will continue to deteriorate.
During his contribution, Minister of Education Dr. Robert Lewis admitted that the funds for such undertakings are inadequate, but said government cannot afford more money at this time.
“The public infrastructure in this country is beginning to age, most of our schools are between 30 to 40 years old and it speaks to the fact that the government will have to find the necessary funds to do the necessary rehabilitations,” he said.
However, Dr. Lewis said instead of rehabilitating all the schools each year, the government is now looking to prioritise the number of schools to undergo repairs.
Lewis said that several schools also suffered massive damages as a result of the Christmas Eve trough last year with damage amounting to approximately EC$2 million.
“So it’s a big cost to the government. We have already spent a huge sum of money to conduct repairs to various schools. In excess of EC$200,000 was spent on Anse La Raye Primary School alone to rehabilitate the school compound. In addition to this, government assisted 736 pupils who were affected by the trough to the tune of EC$573,800, even when allocation was already given towards rebuilding efforts.
“Last year, an allocation of EC$2,374, 511 was made towards the Micoud North Primary School to incorporate the infant school with the primary level. The construction of this facility was completed on March 1 and the pupils of the infant school will be moving there as of September 2014,” said Lewis.
Moving on to the allocation made towards the education sector, Lewis told the House that the Basic Education Enhancement Project (BEEP) project will see an allocation of EC$90,558,709 this year.
“Six schools are expected to benefit from this project, which includes five primary schools and three secondary schools,” he said.
Work will begin on all of the schools in August this year and will be completed by December 2015. Four schools have already benefited with approximately EC$4 million pledged towards this project.