Kamla Persad bashes Nyan, says education of T&T in shambles

Persad-Bissessar was contributing to the private motion moved by Opposition Member of Parliament Anita Haynes on the increasing and unacceptable levels of disparity in inequitable access to education.

Kamla Persad bashes Nyan, says education of T&T in shambles
Kamla Persad bashes Nyan, says education of T&T in shambles

The Former Prime Minister and Opposition leader of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persad-Bissessar criticized the Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and remarked the education system of the country is in shambles. While addressing the House of Representatives on Friday, February 25, 2022, Kamala Persad stated that the education minister failed to respond to the increasing and unacceptable levels of disparity in inequitable access to education in the country.

“From cutting GATE (Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses Programme), closing tertiary education campuses, refusing to complete works on several schools all over the country. The Minister (of Education) talked about repairs to schools, but these schools have been shut, vine growing on it and all kinds of vermin living in these premises; schools almost complete and ready to go but six going on seven years, nothing has been done,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar was contributing to the private motion moved by Opposition Member of Parliament Anita Haynes on the increasing and unacceptable levels of disparity in inequitable access to education.

She said Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, in response to the motion, failed to say what steps the Ministry of Education planned to take to address the inequities in the education system.

“I am of the compliant view that the Minister’s contribution here today is far from the reality of what is happening in the education sector. And what we will get from this, which is the legacy of the Government, will be a lost generation of children because of what has happened in the education sector, “underscored Persad-Bissessar.

While asking the government about their priorities, opposition leader stressed, “Is your priority to give $23 million for rental somewhere… Taste of Carnival, building goat pens? Our children should be given priority number one, priority number two and priority number three, because we will be lost and they will be lost”.

Touching on the tertiary education sector, she said when the People’s Partnership government assumed office, the tertiary education sector had a participation rate of 42 per cent, but set a 60 per cent participation target and achieved 65.2 per cent.

She noted that as of June 2015, 59,605 pupils were accessing GATE under the PP government, while under the present Government, only 21,000 pupils were accessing the programme.

“Are you then telling me that the 38,000 students who are no longer able to access GATE, that they were all middle class or high income. Can that be true? I am not of the view that this is true,”Persad-Bissessar opined.

Kamla Persad further asserted that in the PP government’s last year in office (2015), it spent $650 million on the GATE programme, but this was slashed to $400 million under the current administration.

“The Minister was saying that more students were getting the bursary. Yes, that may be so, but when you come to scholarships, there was a drastic reduction in the number of scholarships. Under my Government, in the last full year there were 1,873 scholarships in that year. In that year we had a record-high 400 national scholarships, yet you came to cut national scholarships from 400 to 100,”she pointed out.

‘Where is the equity and the spreading to make sure that our best students would be able to get the scholarships?’ she asked.

Persad-Bissessar said under the PP government, 96 new early childhood education centres were built.

‘Can you tell me if you built any ECCE centres in the nearly seven years you’ve been here?’ she further questioned.

Opposition leader further added that the Government and the Education Ministry to address the violence within schools and pondered whether the ministry ever implemented the recommendations of a report by a Joint Select Committee (JSC) on human rights, which addressed violence in schools and the impact high levels of crime in communities had on schools.