With just nine days left before the start of the Michaelmas school term, Parliament today approved an additional $2.79 million dollars for school repairs and beautification.
The money is supplementary to February’s spending estimates for education, Government’s second-highest expense.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw told the House of Assembly that the ministry “requires $2.79 million in supplementary funding to complete a number of the projects that had been started”.
She explained: “We expanded the number of schools for what we would consider urgent repairs. Previously we would have spent around $1.8m this was expanded to $3.8 million.
“After a meeting with the Prime Minister around the May 18, where we met with members of the unions, stakeholders in education, various ministries, it was agreed based on the state of the school plants that we required an additional $2 million dollars to assist in an expanded domestic summer programme.”
Outlining some of the budget items for the supplementary funds, she told the House: “There is $10,928 for supplies and materials’ $1.8 million towards maintenance of property; $44,800 operating expenses; $1,440,000 towards professional services; $70 000 towards property and plant.”
Bradshaw explained that a school mural and beautification programme was also in place to leverage the importance of art and creativity within the school environment
The Minister said: “A lot of the exterior of the plants are not appealing. We want students and teachers to feel good when they are walking in the premises that they are colourful sights that surround them.
“There is a lot of work to be done in the schools. Being able to beatify the surroundings is one step in making the environment more comfortable.”
She told fellow lawmakers that four schools have been earmarked for beautification for the new school year out of a total of 20 schools targetted for painting and murals over a five-year period.
Bradshaw said: “Several private sector entities have responded positively. We agreed that four schools, two primary and two secondary, are to be done each year.
“The four schools for this year are: St Mary’s Primary, Westbury Primary, Grantley Adams Secondary and Frederick Smith Secondary.”
The St Michael South East MP assured too that the ministry was working on the inside as well. She disclosed that 39 contractors were offered contracts to carry out school repairs.
She said: “We had a few challenges in the last few weeks where a few contractors declined their contracts worth $192,000.
“Moving forward we need to be able to allow a mobilisation fee to allow some of our contractors who are not able to secure the financing in time.”
Work on some schools is being delayed until “later in the year”, the Education Minister added, while some have been “put on hold because of the declines by contractors”.
But the Minister assured the public that she will speak next week on the school’s repairs project in order to update the public ahead of the September 9th start of the new term. Bradshaw said she had already engaged all the teachers’ unions on the matter.
In another development, an additional $3,816,907 was also approved to fund the Skills for the Future programme under a deal first made by the previous administration in May 2012 with the Inter-American Development Bank.
The money, which is being spent mainly on the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology, is to be refunded to the Treasury by IDB.
Bradshaw said: “The IDB almost boast perfect performance by Barbados as it relates to this project.
“So while there have been some setbacks in recent times it is perhaps one of the better performing projects thus far.”