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Teachers want more latitude to spend school grants – Manickchand

…exploring options with MoF to offer subvention instead

Thousands of teachers have expressed their satisfaction at the newly introduced school grants to purchase needed supplies, but have also called for more leeway in securing items outside of the current list or otherwise viewed as capital items.
Education Minister, Priya Manickchand made this disclosure in response to a letter in one of the daily newspapers, where she shed clarity on the benefits of this grant and the progress made thus far.
She penned, “We have since received feedback that teachers are deeply grateful and pleased with this grant but that they would like more latitude in purchasing in their classrooms in service to their children. For example, teachers hold the view that they can use the money wisely to have enough left over to buy fans or whiteboards or water dispensers. Some of these items unfortunately are categorized as capital items and cannot be purchased this year.”
The Education Ministry is engaging the Finance Ministry to offer the grant as a subvention to schools rather than under the line items of janitorial, field and office supplies. This request is being studied to provide a sensible solution that marries the Government’s intention to serve the nation’s children and their teachers and the Government’s desire to stay accountable.
Manickchand outlined, “This, we believe would offer more latitude to teachers which in turn would offer a better service to our children even as we intend firmly to stay accountable.”
For many years, she zeroed in that the Ministry has received complaints from teachers and parents alike that enough independence had not been given in the identification of needs of a classroom and procurement of products or services. In fact, teachers themselves would have to expend their own salaries to change that reality.
On the other hand, parents have complained that they were being taxed daily to provide bleach, toilet paper, crayons and pay for test papers – a bill that would make it unaffordable to send their kids to school.
Traditionally, budgets would be provided by Central Government for the purchase of janitorial and office supplies. There was no standardization of how these monies were spent over the years with different regions doing different things.
An evaluation found that the former processes were either cumbersome or failed to meet the needs of the schools. A common example was that buying in bulk invoked the public bidding process because of the large sums being expended, which inevitably led to goods reaching schools very late. It also failed to meet the individual demands of classrooms.
In August, the Education Ministry announced that each school would be given a value per child. On the coastland, it was $4,000 per child and in the hinterland, $5,500 per child.
It was announced at each distribution that the school would have to retain a percentage and the teachers would be given a percentage of the said money. For janitorial, the headteacher would retain 80 percent of the janitorial sum. For items which teachers wanted to purchase, such as cement for a particular technical subject, approval was sought since it was not included in the original list.
From feedback, the education minister shared that in some primary schools, headteachers have given teachers their individual sums while in others, the teachers have chosen to have the money treated as a bulk sum. The Ministry has allowed autonomy on how to run their program within the confines of remaining accountable and not breaching our financial or criminal laws.
It has been clearly outlined that the sums distributed must be fully accounted for. Receipts, that are visible and authentic of purchases would be required and must be submitted as this program will be fully audited. (G12)