The Ministry of Education has finalized some of its austerity measures to work with the cuts by Central Government. Back in April, Education Minister Patrick Faber initially spoke of budget cuts being inevitable amid the Covid-19 endemic. According to Faber cuts will be seen in the procurement of text books. Today he gave an update on what other measures they are taking.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: “In terms of text books know that this initiative while we expect to have cuts in this area we simply will not purchase the kind of purchase that we would have done under normal circumstance and so we expect that things could operate pretty normally once we secure those books, those textbooks and we minimize a loss at the close of the school year which is another reason why we find it so important for teachers in particular to return for the last 2 to weeks prepare for closing school in a proper manner and also for the reopening. In terms of school transportation we expect cuts in this area as well however we intend on sitting down with our contractors to work out a way forward and we believe that we will be able to provide interrupted school transportation maybe even increased school transportation if what is determined when we reopen schools dictates that that is needed but people can be assured that school transportation in our neediest areas will continue. We are also very insistent on ensuring that the school feeding programs are kept at normal maybe even ramped up at the start of the new school year. So those school feeding programs in the rural area of the Belize district, the river valley area, the south side of Belize City , and also the one operational in Dangirga can count on seeing funds allocated for such initiative. The high school subsidy program is going to continue however there is a modified version of this initiative.”
For the past ten years the Ministry of Education has been working towards a national subsidy for all forms of secondary schools. It has been a gradual process but with the Covid-19 cutbacks, the school subsidy will be affected.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education Youth and Sports: “Traditionally the allocation for a student subsidy ticket was $300. While it is difficult on all fronts to keep this program going all agreed on our ministry and also in the cabinet that the program must continue however we do need to make an adjustment and so the program will now see all these students who are moving on as I’ve outlined previously from primary school to secondary school receive $200; that’s a reduction of one hundred dollars from $300 to $200. Likewise those students who are being promoted from first to second as you know would have received the $300 subsidy in second form they too will continue to receive the subsidy however that amount will be reduced from $30o to $200. The ministry regrets having to do this but for us it is a must given the budget constraints they are upon us and we’re hoping that in fact the mere fact that we have seen this as a priority to save this initiative is something they would be appreciated by the Belizean people. You have our fullest assurance as I was sure you get from my cabinet colleagues that once things improve that we will do our best to reinstate the full value of this subsidy.”
Another area that will be affected by the education cutbacks is the scholarships and tuition aids. This has primarily to do with the awards given in the CSEC and CAPE passes.
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: “The six CSEC tuition scholarship program this was offered to students who qualified by basically gaining six passes on the CSEC examinations and just by way of information as well we expect that the grades for our CSEC examinations and CAPE exams for that matter will be returned to us at some time in September a little bit later than what we are used to but once those grades come back to us the ministry will honor its pledge to give an award to those students who have made six passes with the minor conditions that apply. However it will be a bit different from what people have become accustomed to and so we signal that change now. Previous to now any student who received those passes and made the requirement they would have received their tuition paid to any amount of subjects that they signed up for if they were taking a full load and for us a full load was fifteen credit hours or more. So if the student took thirty credit hours the ministry of education would pay the tuition for those thirty credit hours. Well the change is that we have a set amount given the budget cuts for the allocation for these scholarships and so now dependent on the number of students who meet the qualification that lump sum of money will be divided appropriately among those who are qualifying for the scholarship and rather than we pay for the entire tuition load the lump sum that you will receive will be paid toward such tuition expenses that you will incur.”
We will have more on the new developments in education in our Tuesday newscast.