The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is reporting that there is no shortage of textbooks or furniture in schools.
Free text books are available for primary-school children, while there is a book rental system in place for students at the secondary level.
Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for the ministry Karl Samuda, provided details at Wednesday’s (October 9) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
“I want to make a blanket statement that there should be no sense of anxiety with respect to the supply of books throughout Jamaica, in both the primary and secondary schools. There is no shortage of books for the first term. What everybody will be inclined to do, when asked, ‘What do you want’, they will give you a wish list, but the wish list has very little to do necessarily with the consistency of the National Standards Curriculum for the academic year,” Samuda explained.
He said the ministry is not embarking on a programme to “countenance, sanction or provide a ‘wish list’ that may occur to any group within the Ministry. We stick strictly to the requirements under the National Standards Curriculum programme and we provide the books appropriate to that programme”.
Samuda added that as far as the books and the numbers supplied so far, the needs for the first term of the school year are covered.
For her part, Acting Permanent Secretary Dr. Grace McLean said based on the monitoring of the system by the education officers, there is no reported immediate shortage of furniture and books within the system.
She explained that the ministry undertook a placement of orders from last year December as it relates to the number of books required, based on indications from the school administrators.
“The process for procurement takes more than six months. These contracts have to go all the way to Cabinet for approval before they are provided to the suppliers who actually distribute the books across the island,” she noted.
“This year is also unique, because we have fully implemented the National Standards Curriculum and we are on a drive to ensure that we change out all the books within the system, which will be done over a two-year period,” Dr. McLean said.
She said educational officers are always on alert for schools that will call to say they need additional books, noting that “once we receive those calls then we provide those books accordingly. To the best of our knowledge, we have done that within the first two weeks of the school year”.
Turning to the matter of school furniture, she said the ministry supplies furniture based on what is critical, adding that there is an active repair programme within schools.
Dr. McLean said approximately 30 schools, for this year, were provided with funds in their regular grants to purchase their own furniture.
She noted that based on its audit, the ministry has, so far, delivered 11,058 pieces of students’ furniture with about 1,500 to be delivered within the course of this week, and the other 6,200 pieces will be delivered to the schools that have requested, by the end of October.
“We do not have any students who are standing up at this time and receiving instruction. They are all seated on a chair around a desk, in their labs on stools around a table, and the teaching learning process continues,” Dr. McLean said.