EDUCATION Minister Priya Manickchand, accompanied by Georgetown and regional education officers, visited East Berbice (Region Six) on Friday, July 11, to continue consultations with parents and guardians on Government’s new initiative to give each school-age child a grant of $10,000.
The Minister and her entourage were warmly received by Region Six residents, who braved the rains to fill every meeting place in large numbers; and she held engagements with parents in 122 schools in several meetings on
how the Education Ministry can best provide the grant to the children.
Minister Manickchand asked parents to indicate by the show of hands whether they preferred encashing a voucher or purchasing goods from accredited stores with the vouchers; and the almost unanimous choice was being able to encash the vouchers.
The parents/guardians were also asked to indicate the financial service of choice they would prefer to use in encashing the vouchers; and responses ranged from the Guyana Post Office Corporation to Western Union, to various commercial banks, to Mobile Money Ltd.
The Minister encouraged parents/guardians to alert her on issues that were of concern to them, whether or not those issues were education-related; and parents/guardians expressed concerns about businesses that were taking advantage of them by increasing prices on school items when they use the uniform vouchers to purchase items for their children.
The parents were very angry that when the voucher programme is not on, prices for school items would cost much less, but as soon as the ministry announces start of the voucher programme, stores raise their prices. Parents expressed that they would normally be able to get many more items if they paid cash than when they purchase with the vouchers. They said they felt robbed. One woman at Tagore Memorial Secondary School said, “These stores unreasonable. The government trying to help the people and the store gouging out them eye”.
Minister Manickchand said that if this report is true, she is very disappointed with the stores. She assured the parents/guardians that if the ministry finds any store that has raised its prices for parents shopping with the government-issued vouchers, the Ministry would deal condignly with that individual business.
The Minister said that, on the other hand, she knew of some stores that would actually give special tokens to parents shopping with the vouchers. She publicly called on storeowners to have a conscience, and explained to the parents that they have the power to make the stores offer competitive prices.
Parents also expressed their views on automatic promotion, and made recommendation on how children should be promoted.
Minister Manickchand addressed a range of other issues raised by parents/guardians in the county, and committed to bringing to the attention of the various Ministers the matters that were raised.