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National Assembly

In the National Assembly | 09 October 2019

MNAs question minister for education

 

The National Assembly yesterday morning questioned the Minister for Education and Human Resource Development Jeanne Simeon in regards to various education-related issues.

The first member of the National Assembly (MNAs) to pose a question was Hon. Gervais Henrie who wanted to know the number of students who had joined the University of Seychelles (UniSey).

His question further asked of the total sum the Agency for National Human Resource Development (ANHRD) has paid for these students to attend UniSey as opposed to what they have paid for students to go study in universities abroad.

Giving some context, Minister Simeon explained that before the establishment of UniSey, all students who qualified for university went overseas and this limited the number of people who had the opportunity to gain a degree.

UniSey, therefore, was established in 2009 to provide more students with the opportunity for further studies and its point system, which shrunk from 18 points to 12 points in 2012, allowed more students to become eligible for its degree courses.

Over the course of its 10-year existence, from 2009 to 2019, a total of 840 students have enrolled at UniSey at a degree level.

“And this has cost the government, through the ANHRD, R1.46 billion,” Minister Simeon clarified.

In the same period, ANHRD has sent 1,471 students who had received a scholarship to universities overseas in priority areas that are presently not offered by UniSey. This has cost the government R1.08 billion, according to the minister.

Minister Simeon noted the various advantages to studying at UniSey compared to overseas such as being close to family and having a support system.

Also an advantage is that courses offered by UniSey are full scholarship and do not require for parental contribution as opposed to overseas scholarships.

UniSey is offering 18 active courses but has plans to extend the number of courses being taught, and is developing new courses in the fields of tourism, blue economy, education, environment.

The minister added that UniSey is working on providing more courses on part-time basis or online.

In response to Hon. John Hoareau, Minister Simeon stressed that ANHRD presently does not owe UniSey.

This statement was later challenged by Hon. Hoareau who stated that he had information that proved otherwise.

After re-checking with the ANHRD, the minister acknowledged that “yes, there is a shortfall in its budget which is why it’s made an application under the supplementary budget to cover it. The agency has been in discussions with the Ministry of Finance which has advised the ANHRD to cover the UniSey fees and then its budget will be supplemented for it to continue its operations.”

Renovation works on Anse Boileau secondary and Glacis primary schools were also some of the notable subjects raised yesterday.

Hon. Phillip Arrisol asked when the renovation works on Anse Boileau secondary would start given that R2 million had already been allocated under the Small Development Project in the 2019 budget.

The money was allocated to construct a boundary wall around the school as well as a wall which would separate Anse Boileau secondary and primary schools.

Other components of the renovation project includes the construction of a drainage system that would help the school out during rainy periods, the construction of a driveway from the school gate to the dining hall and a pedestrian walkway to ensure the safety of the students.

Minister Simeon added that the contractor would also have to raise the level of the playing field and recreational area in line with the new drainage system.

Work has already begun since August 2019 and is expected to be completed by December 2019, but the project has halted since September because the contractor is helping the ministry with an emergency work at Nisti (National Institute of Science Technology and Innovation), which now accommodates Belonie secondary.

The contractor will soon take up their construction work at Anse Boileau secondary.

“The budget which was projected for these works was R2 million but according to the contract, the works will amount to R2.4 million,” Minister Simeon revealed.

Minister Simeon also noted that renovations are taking some time to complete because the contractors often have to wait for classes to end and the weekends to undertake the bigger jobs.

“We have to minimise the amount of noise and inconveniences the students and teachers have to deal with, especially now that the end of year exams are ahead.”

She affirmed and assured Hon. Arrisol that the renovation of Anse Boileau secondary remains a priority for her ministry, particularly given the age of the school.

As for Glacis primary school, Minister Simeon stated that the ministry has already completed various phases in the project which started in 2018.

Works that have completed are the renovations of balustrades that were not safe; removal and replacement of the ceramic tiles that posed a threat to students safety; replacement of sanitary wares such urinals; updating of the school’s plumbing system; construction of a canopy to cover the staircase which got wet whenever it rained; construction of new cabinets in the dining hall and renovation of the dental room.

Minister Simeon noted that they are waiting on the Ministry of Health to install dental equipment in the dental room.

The project will cost the government R2.8 million.

“The ministry of education is satisfied with the work that has been done so far because it has brought about a lot of improvements in comfort, safety and security of teachers, students and staff even though there has been some inconveniences.”

The minister also answered question in regards to incentives to encourage more people to become school counselors, promotion and demotion of students, school councils and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and the Renaissance Literacy Programme.

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