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TTUTA, NPTA claim schools forced to operate without basic supplies

Published: 
Sunday, May 20, 2018
TTUTA President Lynsley Doodhai

Primary schools across the country are facing a financial crisis as they are yet to receive any Direct Funding for the 2017/2018 academic year. Officials have warned that if the situation is not rectified soon, it could negatively impact schools’ reopening in September.

The allocation, usually disbursed at the beginning of the academic year, is used to purchase toiletries, stationery, and cleaning supplies.

President of the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai said “Right now, it is the goodwill of principals, parents, and teachers that are propping up our primary schools and keeping them afloat and that shouldn’t be.”

This sentiment was echoed by National Primary Schools’ Principals Association President Cogland Griffith, who said the matter was last raised with officials of the Ministry of Education during their monthly stakeholder meeting in April.

He said, “The majority of schools have not received the allocation which is supposed to be given on a yearly basis. We have been told that monies were allocated but it went to pay suppliers who were not paid last year.

“That puts us in a place where we are without supplies and we are running very low in some instances. At some schools we don’t have supplies and principals are complaining to us about it.”

Griffith said principals were experiencing an overwhelming sense of frustration, especially as the academic year is due to end in the first week of July.

Appealing for an urgent meeting with Education Minister Anthony Garcia to discuss the issue, Griffith said it was unacceptable that 500 primary schools in both islands were forced to operate without “basic supplies.”

This number includes government-run and government-assisted schools.

He said his association would also be affected as they would be unable to properly satisfy accounting procedures detailing their expenditure for the past year and also their requisition for the coming year.

“The ministry should find the funds to purchase the necessary things for us.”

Agreeing with Doodhai, he said “It is not our responsibility to ask parents to get those supplies.”

Concerned that the lack of funding was also affecting teaching and learning outcomes, both Griffith and Doodhai said school officials have been forced to come up with creative ways to raise funds and as such, they have been spending valuable time outside of the classroom.

He said, “Our teachers have to manage a curriculum along with other duties and responsibilities, and we can’t be taken up to go outside and raise funds which means they will lose valuable teaching time. It is not part of our remit to raise funds.”

Confirming a handful of schools in the South-Eastern Education District had received funding for 2017/2018, Griffith said no schools in the Port-of-Spain and Environs Education District and the Caroni Education District had received any funding for the year.

He said, “We cannot contemplate what will happen in September, unless we ask parents to supply or go on a drive which is not something we should be doing to raise funds.”

Asked when last this situation had occurred, Griffith said “I can’t even remember any other time when we didn’t get funding for so long.”

He said “This is a dire situation and it needs to be addressed urgently because if it isn’t, we will not have the basic materials to run schools and if we do open, we will have to solicit the assistance of parents.”

TTUTA’s Doodhai confirmed the financial allocation previously stood at $150 per child, but in the face of the economic crisis this figure was reduced to $100 per child.

Doodhai criticised the ministry over the lack of funding as he said the shortage of supplies had led to parents being asked to shoulder that burden “in the best interest of their children.”

What is Direct Funding?

Direct Funding, introduced in 2012, is a monetary allocation based on the enrolment of the school that is given directly to the institution.

It enables schools to purchase stationery; items needed for the implementation of the curriculum such as chalk, dusters, whiteboards, and markers; and cleaning supplies including toilet paper, liquid soap, garbage bags, mopping liquid and disinfectant—all of which were previously supplied directly by the Ministry of Education.

Minister: We paid 50%

Denying the claims, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said on Friday, “For fiscal 2017/2018, the ministry remitted funds to the boards of denominational schools for Terms One and Two.”

Garcia said this was meant to be used for the upkeep of the school premises and equipment. However, he did admit there were still monies being owed in terms of requisites and other supplies. Garcia said as soon they received the funds, this issue would be rectified.

He said his ministry had remitted approximately 50 per cent of the funding as requested by principals of government-run primary schools, which would be used to purchase stationery, toiletries, and cleaning supplies.

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