“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
About five or six schools have to be closed on a daily basis because of an array of problems, from rat infestations to sewer problems, Education Minister Dr Tim Goopeesingh said yesterday. But the ministry is fast-tracking a programme with the Education Facilities Company Ltd and Local Government Minister Marlene Coudray to speed up repairs, he added. Gopeesingh was answering questions at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. “Teams have been set up throughout the ministry to repair the schools as fast as possible. I have sought the help of Marlene Coudray (Minister of Local Government) to help with sewer problems,” he added. Gopeesingh said part of the problem with electrical systems at some schools was that they were being upgraded with air-conditioning systems. “When air-conditioning systems are put in, electrical systems have to be changed,” he noted. He said the ministry had done rewiring work in 30 secondary schools.
Gopeesingh: Early education a priority
Gopeesingh also said Cabinet yesterday approved the People’s Partnership pledge in its 2010 manifesto on the issue of universal early childhood education. He said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had asked for that mandate to be fulfilled before 2015, the year a general election is due. Noting that 70 per cent of a person’s intellectual development occurred in the first seven years of life, he said early childhood education remained one of the Government’s main priorities and there were 38,000 children between the ages of three and four who needed to be taken care of. Gopeesingh said close to 7,000 of those children were categorised as underprivileged and under-served. “There must be a space for every one of them,” he added. Cabinet has approved the construction of 24 early childhood centres which will start in a month and will accommodate 10,500 children. They will be constructed by contractors at a cost of around $6 million each, he said. “We plan to do 150 between now and the first term of 2015.” There was a plan to include privately-run 571 childhood centres into the ministry’s plans, he said, and analyses had found most of them were up to standard and 80 below what was acceptable.