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Gov't must build more schools - Holness

Published:Thursday | June 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Karrie Williams, Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness has lambasted the Government for what he says is its failure to invest in building new schools.

The opposition leader made his comments while addressing a valedictory service of the Petersfield High School in Westmoreland, at the Sean Lavery Faith Hall in Savanna-la-Mar on Tuesday.

According to Holness, the last time the Government made any significant investment in building schools was more than three decades ago. He said the current rate at which new schools were being built, was insufficient to keep pace with the requirements of a modern country.

"I believe it is time the Government pay special attention to education and invest in building out the capacity of our schools," Holness said. "The last time we made any significant investment in building schools was in the early 1970s, between 1969 and 1972, when we built those 50 schools.

"In the 1990s an attempt was made in building some schools in Trelawny and elsewhere in the island. They built about four high schools at the time. Since then, we have been building one high school every two years (and) that is not enough to keep apace with the educational requirements of a modern country," he added.

17 new schools

But, contrary to Holness' statements, a total of 17 new schools, comprising five basic, four primary and eight high schools were constructed in the parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover, St James and Trelawny under the 2003 Northwestern Schools Project.

The project was commissioned by the Ministry of Education, and completed in 2007 at a cost of $3.8 billion. The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) executed the project, while West Indies Home Contractors constructed the buildings.

Though acknowledging that the country was facing some harsh economic constraints, Holness reinforced his point to the more than 150 graduates, parents and teachers who filled up the hall, by declaring, "It is not when we are growing that we build schools, we build schools in order to grow. It is by investing in education ... that the country is going to grow and do well."

karrie.williams@gleanerjm.com