Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Whiteman dismisses Seaga's comments
The Gleaner
February 26, 2002

EDUCATION MINISTER Burchell Whiteman yesterday dismissed as "unscientific", arguments made by Opposition leader Edward Seaga that a reported $6 billion overrun in expenditure on various Government projects could send Jamaican children to secondary schools free of cost for the next 12 years.

Mr. Seaga made the comment while on the campaign trail in Western Jamaica over the weekend. He was referring to allegations of billions of dollars in cost overruns and massive overpayments on a number of National Housing Development Company (NHDC) projects.

"Well, you need to know that it is approximately $900 million a year which parents pay into the high school system, quite apart from what the Government contributes on behalf of those parents who are unable to pay, which has run as high as nearly $300 million at different times," said Minister Whiteman during a press conference held at the Ministry of Education in Kingston yesterday.

"We are looking at over a billion dollars which represents the fees that are paid, not to mention the other $5-$6 billion dollars which the Ministry pays for cost and emoluments. We really prefer a level of scientific accuracy as we debate these issues," added the Minister.

Minister Whiteman who was highlighting im-provements and announcing new initiatives undertaken by his Ministry for this year, explained that the Government has increased its spending significantly on both early childhood and high school education.

Since the start of the school year, he said, recognition grants to basic schools had moved from $1,500 to $5,000. Nutrition subsidies had also moved from $11 per student annually, to $250 while the material subsidy, went up from $50 per student to $200 annually. Persons operating demonstration schools, community and resource centres had also benefited as a basic initial grant of $2,500 per year, said the Minister, increased to $20,000 annually.

While not giving figures he also noted that salary subsidies had also increased.

He further pointed out that a special project funded jointly by the Caribbean Development Bank and the Government of Jamaica would invest more than $700 million overtime to provide teacher resource centres, construction of basic schools and quality improvement programmes in early childhood education.

The Minister explained that about $200 million has been spent to improve the quality of programme offerings in the recently upgraded high schools in the areas of science, information technology, literacy initiatives and the library facilities