Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald yesterday confirmed that the ministry has asked for the College of The Bahamas (COB) to cutback but said these cutbacks “should be achieved without any reduction in quality and level of services to the public or any forced reduction in headcount.”
In a statement sent out last evening, the minister said the cuts should cover direct cash transfers – recurrent and capital – and tax deferment the organisation is now receiving.
He added that the expectation is that at least 50 per cent of the reduction would be achieved through improvements in organisational efficiencies.
“It is worth noting that the government’s subvention to the College of The Bahamas is $25 million excluding capital. $18 million of that $25 million contributes to personal emoluments and allowances,” Minister Fitzgerald said.
“The remaining $7 million are applied towards travel, rent, utilities, printing, supplies, materials and special financial transactions. One would appreciate that any proposed reduction would then come from the remaining $7 million of the government subvention. It is also worth noting that the total budget for the College of The Bahamas is some $46 million of which the government contributes 56 per cent. Therefore the Ministry of Finance is essentially requesting $1.25 million in savings from operational efficiencies and $1.25 million in other cost savings.”
The minister stressed that the ministry has “absolutely no intention of reducing subventions to the College of The Bahamas that would cause a reduction in quality or level of services to the public or any forced reduction in headcount.”
“The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is a vast ministry with a budget of over $280 million, responsible for over 5,000 employees and over 55,000 students. This comprises the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education, the College of The Bahamas, Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute and the Department of Archives,” Minister Fitzgerald said.
Over the past few days, members of the College of The Bahamas Union of Students (COBUS) have been complaining saying that the college intends to increase its fees to meet the reduction in government subsidies.
COBUS President Ernesto Williams has lamented that this could mean a hike of $25 per credit.
In the government’s defence, Minister Fitzgerald said the government has committed over this term in office to double the national investment in education and training.
“To this end, we have invested $3 million in upgrading our computer labs and technology in our high schools and will invest another $5 million before the upcoming school year in preschools, special education and further investment in technology; We have added 125 new teachers to our existing complement of teachers, the largest single addition in recent memory. We have provided $300,000 in financial aid to the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute. Enrolment has increased by 25 per cent,” he said.
“We have awarded over $11 million in scholarships and over 1,800 students have benefitted. This is an increase of 25 per cent in scholarships grants in a single year, over 3 million of which went to students at the College of the Bahamas.”
Minister Fitzgerald added, “As Minister of Education I accept my responsibility to ensure that my ministry minimises waste, improve efficiencies and reorganise our priorities to ensure that we are able to effectively match the demands of the Ministry of Education Science and Technology with the reasonable constraints placed on the Ministry of Finance and to do so without negatively impacting our quality of education and our level of services to the public.”