Government has entered into a multi-million-dollar deal with China which will see local primary and secondary schools purchasing buses on credit from a Chinese bus manufacturing company, a Cabinet minister has revealed.
Speaking to Sunday News last week, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Cde Lazarus Dokora said the deal was signed last month and Government was now compiling a list of schools interested in the facility.
Cde Dokora was, however, not in a position to reveal the exact value of the deal and the name of the Chinese bus manufacturing company, saying the finer details of the deal would be made public on the day the it would be officially unveiled.
He said under the deal, which is targeting marginalised schools and expected to take off soon, schools would purchase the buses on credit and pay over a period of two years.
“This facility is targeting marginalised schools especially in low-income communities and rural areas where it is difficult to introduce bus levies and other fund-raising programmes.
“As Government we want every school to have a school bus, but some schools don’t have the financial power to buy the buses. As a result we turned to our all-weather friends China in a government to government agreement that will make it possible for our schools to purchase buses on credit and then pay for those buses over a period of two years.
“Right now we are compiling a list of schools that are interested. Each school will choose a bus that they feel they can afford, we will not dictate the kind of bus a school should buy,” Cde Dokora said.
“Why would we want to talk about that now? We can’t really estimate how much the deal is worth now but you will be told soon when we officially unveil the deal.”
Cde Dokora added that Government was going to make it a requirement for all schools to visit national monuments and heritage sites as part of the learning curricular.
He said such visits could only be possible and affordable if schools had their own buses, a target Government intended to meet by year end.
“We now want to make it a requirement that schoolchildren visit national monuments and heritages as part of the learning programme. For that requirement to be met by every school, each school should have its own transport.
“This is the main reason why we decided to come up with such a facility, which will also help schools attend different sporting activities without difficulty. By the end of the year I’m sure each school would have a bus,” Cde Dokora said.
Meanwhile, the education minister also revealed that his ministry had outlawed the holding of holiday and extra lessons in all primary and secondary schools.
He said a circular notifying schools of the latest development had been sent to all schools around the country.
Cde Dokora warned that any teacher or school head caught breaching the directive would risk being dismissed from service.
“With effect from this coming holiday we will not allow any school, teacher or headmaster to conduct holiday and extra lessons. Communication has already been sent to all schools and any one who defies this will face the music,” he said.
He said the 13 weeks allocated in each term for learning were adequate for schoolchildren to grasp various concepts contained in their syllabi.
Cde Dokora said there was no justification for holding holiday or extra lessons, pointing out that most schools and teachers were using the facility to fleece parents.
“The school curriculum is designed to transact in 13 weeks that are allocated per term. Extra lessons and holiday lessons are anti education. Any serious education philosopher, psychologist or teacher will tell you that optimal learning of a child can be achieved in 13 weeks.
“What we are simply saying is that teachers should focus on their mandate, that of teaching during the prescribed period. Some schools were now fleecing parents of their hard-earned money through these extra lessons and we are saying that should stop,” he said.
Schools were used to holding extra lessons during school holidays to augment learning which would have occurred during the school terms, in light of the poor pass rates of pupils in public examinations.
In previous years schools used to apply to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for authority to conduct holiday lessons. However, some schools abused the facility.