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Re: School scandal

Universal secondary education not Govt's main reasons

By Ria Taitt

Government could have achieved the goal of universal secondary education without building the 20 new schools, the Inter-American Development Bank stated in a letter to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education. The letter was copied to Education Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar. (See page 11)

The Bank, in a letter dated February 17, 2000, stated that while government was saying that the rationale for accelerating the construction of all schools by 2001 was the need to achieve universal secondary education, an examination of the information showed otherwise.

In fact, the Bank said, that "a closer examination of the information and analysis indicated that "universal secondary education is not the primary factor driving the construction of new schools". "Nor," it added, "is the completion of the 20 new schools by 2001 critical to achieving the goals of the SEMP (Secondary Education Modernisation Programme)". The Bank did not identify what it believed was the primary motive behind the construction programme.

But it took issue with the fact that the original plan to build the 20 schools on a phased basis over a 6 year period was changed by the government to 20 schools in a two year period.

The Bank, in another letter, dated February 15, 2000, to former Education Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, raised serious questions about the cost overruns, saying that they were wholly unjustified.

"The danger of considerable over-budgett expenditure on the ten new schools is that this puts budget pressure on other important elements in SEMP.

In addition, it raises real concerns about the ability of the Government to effectively manage implementation of the programme and control costs," the letter said.

It said its review of the MTS' recommendations for award of contracts for nine of the ten schools revealed that the scope of work for the construction of the schools is on average 50 per cent larger than the agreed area-per-student parameter.

It stated: "The Bank's assessment indicates there is little evidence that the size or quality of infrastructure (beyond normal standards) has any positive contribution to the attainment of better educational outcomes and, therefore questions the advisability of these rather large over-budget expenditures", the letter to Persad-Bissessar stated.

The Bank said it was concerned that the price tag for investment in school infrastructure would unnecessarily inflate the overall cost of secondary education services and might jeopardise successfully achieving the goal of 20 new secondary schools targeted under the SEMP within six years.

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