No cash grant for unregistered school-aged children

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—-Manickchand says

Registered children in the public and private education systems, whose parents were unable to uplift their $19,000 ‘Because We Care’ Cash Grant will have to wait until 2022 to benefit from the initiative, while unregistered school-aged children will not benefit at all.

Education Minister, Priya Manickchand made the disclosure on Thursday while the House was considering additional subventions totaling $285.1M to the Ministry of Education for the provision of cash grants to private school students at the nursery, primary and secondary levels. The $285.1M formed part of approximately $5.1B deducted from the Contingency Fund between July 22 and December 9,2021 by the Government.

In justifying the use of the funds, Minister Manickchand said the ‘Because We Care’ Initiative was part of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) manifesto promise to restore the cash grant. Initially, the programme targeted children in the public education system, however, after hearing the concerns of parents of children in private schools, the Government extended the grant to them as well.

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“…the government made a conscious decision, a caring decision, a decision in service to and out of love for the parents of the children of private schools, and decided that all of the children of Guyana going to school, public and private would be beneficiaries of this caring grant,” the Education Minister told the House.

At the time, she was responding to a question posed by A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament, Ganesh Mahipaul, who had asked for the Government to furnish the House with a breakdown of the beneficiaries.

In the public education system, 32,767 children at the nursery level received the $19,000 cash grant while, 93,333 primary school pupils benefited and another 50,362 students at the secondary level. Collectively, they received a total of $3.3B according to the Education Minister.

In the private education system, 3,922 children at the nursery level, 9,088 at the primary level and 3,990 at the secondary level cashed in on the grant totaling $323M of which 285M was taken from the Contingency Fund.

Asked by Opposition MPs Dr. Nicolette Henry and Juretha Fernandes for a breakdown of schools per geographical region from which the children benefited, Minister Manickchand, in response, assured the House that 95% of the student population benefited from the grant in every region.

“Every single school, in every single region, every child was entitled. We did not limit it to nationality. Once people were going to school they were entitled. We have 116 high schools, so I can say from off the top of my head 116 high schools, we have 443 primary schools and all the nursery schools,” she said as she referenced to the public schools. Additionally, students from some 58 private schools benefited.

In acknowledging the response proffered by the Minister, Opposition MP Dawn Hastings-Williams enquired about the system in place to ensure that parents of school-aged children who were unable to collect the grant have an opportunity to do so.

The MP pointed out that at the Jawalla Primary School alone, 26 children did not receive the grant simply because their parents, due to lack of access to information, were unaware of the initiative at the time and were in the back dam working when the grants were being distributed. Jawalla is an Amerindian Village located just off the Kamarang River in the Upper Mazaruni, Region Seven.

“Unfortunately for the children who did not, very small numbers, we will do that next year. We also have to be very clear that to get the grant, persons had to be on the register of the school…what we saw in some villages were persons who were not on the register, not been coming to school, turning up for the grant, so we had such challenge to deal with,” the Education Minister said in response.

However, she noted that different methods were used to communicate to parents in the various regions, and schedules created to ensure those entitled, receive the grant. Minister Manickchand told the House that it would be difficult at this time of the year to facilitate further disbursements when the Education Ministry is required to close its accounts.

“…so if persons didn’t use the many opportunities given to receive this grant in this year, we are going to be very happy to serve them next year. Because this will not stop under the PPP, it will increase until it reaches at least $50,000,” she posited.

Deputy Speaker and Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) Member of Parliament, Lenox Shuman, in representing the interest of persons living with disabilities, enquired whether children with disabilities, who were unable to attend school for various reasons, benefited from the grant.

The Education Minister, in response, reiterated that all children registered in the formal education system inclusive of those in special needs schools, were entitled to the grant. She emphasized that the conditions were simple, they had to be registered, and were in frequent attendance.

But the Deputy Speaker reason that there are many differently abled children who may never be able to get onto a register not because they do not want to but because of their circumstances. “If I am throwing salt on the wound of the PPP at this point, my apologies but there are many students across this country, who are differently abled and cannot go to school, it does not mean they are not students,” he said while enquiring how the Education Ministry intends to address the issue. But thought not answering the specific question, Minister Manickchand assured the House that there are programmes within the Education Ministry that specifically targets children with disabilities.

Describing the distribution of the grant by Ministers as a political gimmick, the Deputy Speaker reasoned that while the cash grant is a very good initiative, it should be channeled through an institution that would be responsible for the disbursement. His statement, however, did not sit well with the Minister, who in expressing her disappointment, told the House that “it is not a political gimmick, it is a political promise being fulfilled.”



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