Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 29th 2015 Contents A5
Tuesday, December 29, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Government will no longer be
providing free textbooks to the
majority of students as it seeks to
cut costs, says Education Minister
Garcia announced the measure
yesterday while being interviewed
on CNC3 s Morning Brew.
In the current system, students
are given use of books for the school
year, which they must return.
The ministry then replenishes
the stock of books as some are lost
This system applied to books
from primary school to Form 6.
This year, only ten per cent of
the books will be replenished for
two classes, Form One and primary
The replacement of special edu-
cation resources will continue to
be 100 per cent funded by Gov-
This means other students would
need to rely on their parents to pro-
vide all of their textbooks.
In a telephone interview yester-
day, Garcia said Government was
set to save $119 million as a result
of cutting back on the provision of
He said the measure, which was
decided by Cabinet, followed an
ongoing series of fiscal adjustments
since the 2015/2016 budget was
read in October.
The total cost to provide books
prior to the decision for the most
recent school year would have been
After the Cabinet s decision, the
new cost for school books is $19
Garcia said the decision was
taken based on Government s
Former Central Bank Governor
Jwala Rambarran announced early
this month that the country was
in a recession.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert
also put forward a motion in Par-
liament to increase the country s
borrowing capacity by $50 billion
under the Development Loans Act,
External Loans Act and the Guar-
antee of Loans (Companies) Act.
In October, Garcia said the Edu-
cation Ministry owed $600 million
to suppliers and contractors.
Many public servants are yet to
be paid their outstanding backpay,
estimated to be over $5 b.
Parents yesterday raised concerns
that the additional cost of textbooks
for them would be approximately
more than $1,000 per family.
"That s going to be very hard,"
said father of one, Rozanno
"They already telling us we are
in a recession and so we are soon
going to feel the effects of that.
"This is just one more thing that
is making it harder for us."
Other parents took a more prac-
tical view of the situation.
"It will be hard but if I have no
choice I will have to make the sac-
rifice," said Levi Pasqual, whose
five-year-old daughter is now in
the primary school system.
Another parent, Dana Mungroo,
who has two children, one a pri-
mary school pupil, and the other
a Form Two student, said while the
situation was sad, she understood
that if the Government already
made a decision, she didn t have a
"It means I will have to sacrifice
a little something extra to spend
on textbooks but I will find a way
to do it."
President of the National Parent
Teacher Association (NPTA) Zena
Ramatali yesterday said the Garcia
needed to give more details on this
Ramatali also raised concerns
about students from low socio-eco-
"The well-to-do parents could
go purchase books but the people
who will be most affected are those
from the lower socio-economic
"We hope the ministry could
reconsider. The ones that stand to
lose are the children from low socio-
economic backgrounds who already
attend low-performing schools."
She felt this could put some chil-
dren at even more of a disadvantage
"We want to know exactly how
it will impact on teaching and learn-
ing. We need to know what will be
in place," Ramatali said.
"We are very concerned about
the issue of the reading texts from
Standards One to Three.
The results of the national test
showed children scored less in read-
ing and comprehension than before."
She said she wanted to advocate
that the reading texts for those stu-
dents were retained.
President of the T&T Unified
Teachers Association (TTUTA)
Devanan Sinanan said his organi-
sation respected the right of Gov-
ernment to opt to such policy posi-
"They obviously have their rea-
sons for adopting that position.
Under the circumstances we respect
that. It would have been nice if we
were consulted prior to the
announcement," Sinanan said.
Operations at the mortuary at
the Forensic Science Centre
ground to a halt yesterday as the
lone pathologist on duty called in
It was not until after 3 pm, that
forensic pathologist Dr Hughvon
DesVignes, whose contract has
ended and was sent on leave earlier
this month, arrived from Tobago
to fill the gap.
The situation left families of peo-
ple who were killed or died under
suspicious circumstances waiting
for hours at the St James facility.
At about 3.05 pm, Des Vignes
was dropped off at the facility.
Dressed in a blue jersey with a
black book bag strapped on to his
back, des Vignes hurriedly made
his way inside the building to begin
the autopsies of bodies brought in
from over the Christmas weekend.
The T&T Guardian was reliably
told yesterday that des Vignes was
sent on leave just over two weeks
ago and was called out as an "emer-
gency call-out" yesterday to work.
"He was at his home in Tobago
and had to leave immediately for
Trinidad upon receiving the call,"
a source at the Centre said.
The on-duty pathologist, who
was supposed to work at the centre
this week is Dr Eslyn McDonald-
Burris. Sources said she reportedly
sent in sick leave covering the next
The third pathologist, Dr Valery
Alexandrov, is currently out of the
country and in St Kitts. His contract
expires on December 31, another
During a visit at the Forensic Sci-
ence Centre yesterday, many rela-
tives and undertakers expressed
their utter disgust and frustration
over the situation.
Junior Bertice, relative of murder
victim, Conan Celestine, 14, who
was killed at a relative s home in
Longdenville on Christmas Day said
that he arrived at the centre at
about 7.30 am and had been waiting
without any proper explanation
from any official.
"From 7.30 am I here and nobody
have anything positive to say to me.
"It is already frustrating and
depressing that my cousin came on
vacation from Tobago and had to
be killed and now to be faced with
this long wait. This is real non-
sense," Bertice said.
An undertaker, who wished not
to be identified, said that shortly
after noon they were told that there
was no pathologist to conduct the
autopsies and that they were trying
to get one to help them out.
"Still there was no explanation
if any pathologist was contacted,"
the undertaker said.
Efforts to reach the Minister of
National Security, Edmund Dillon,
under whose portfolio the Forensic
Science Centre falls, for comment
yesterday, proved futile.
Govt saves $119m as it halts free textbooks
Isaiah Wylie and Aisha Stewart, workers of Nigel R Khan, at High Street, San Fernando stock up their shelves with
school textbooks yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
Forensic crisis as lone pathologist falls ill
Relatives wait outside the Forensic Science Centre, St James yesterday. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
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