Though the logistics are still to be worked out, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), very much plans to honour its promise for the return of the $10,000 per child cash grant for children in public schools while contemplation is ongoing to have the programme extended to private school children as well.
This is according to Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, who, last Tuesday, noted that the broke state in which the previous administration has left the national treasury, as well as the current social gathering restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are some of the challenges affecting the moving forward of the project.
Nonetheless, citizens can be reassured that in time the project will resume.
“That is a commitment we made as a political party on the campaign trail. The PPP/C has always honoured its commitment and it’s one we intend to honour. How we do that is [still being worked out]. We are in a very tight spot economically. We are talking at the cabinet level about submissions for the budget,” the minister explained.
With the new government only recently having been installed following a long five-month elections process, the country has been without a national budget thus far, and the new government is now in the process of creating one.
However, with approximately 187,000 students in the system, the programme will require a $1.87 billion cash injection, and the national purse may not be able to handle the demand just yet.
Aside from the issue of working out the finances, Manickchand highlighted that finding an appropriate means of distribution, in light of the COVID-19 situation, would also provide challenges. Like many countries, Guyana currently has in effect social gathering restrictions as part of the measures to curb the spread of the virus.
“[It] requires a distribution to people that sometimes could require a gathering or several gatherings and that is something we are trying to shut down right now. We [would] have to consult with health, unless we have means of getting the cash grant to parents without them in anyway gathering. So those are some of the issues we have to examine,” she noted.
Called the “Because We Care” project, in 2014, the PPPC initiated the programme which issued to parents cash grants of $10,000 per child in the public school system. The programme was implemented with the aim of providing support to parents with school-age children and increase their disposable income, with a view to raising enrollment and attendance rates.
When the A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) took over government in 2015, the party discontinued the grant. During the lead up to the March 2 elections, the PPP/C had promised to reinstate the programme.
During its roll out, however, some parents with children in private schools had lobbied that if continued, the programme should extend to children in private schools. Manickchand last Tuesday, agreed that a child being in a private school is not necessarily an indication that the parents are not in need of financial aid, and so thought will be given to those children to also be recipients when the project re-commences.
“I see every student whether private or public as a student that we have to have as our primal concern their interest and so it is not off the cards, it is something that was raised even the last time. Like I said we are very new so some of these things are still being ironed out. These things are always budgetary consideration and we have a heavily-taxed and by that I mean broke country,” she said.