Former Minister of Education, Senator Franka Bernadine has refuted claims made by her successor, Anthony Boatswain that the Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) Government did not pay the book stores for the books taken for the free school books program.
Minister Boatswain who earlier this year attacked the NDC flagship program of 2008 to 2013, declaring that it was poorly administered, took another pot shot at the programme at a recent public meeting of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government.
In his address at a party rally held in Sauteurs in St. Patrick’s two weeks ago, Minister Boatswain charged that not one cent was paid to the book stores for the books under Congress.
In refuting the claims, Sen. Bernadine appeared on the weekly NDC Heartbeat program last Sunday and produced evidence of payments that were made to the book stores.
She had a list of documents in hand as proof that payment was made to the Grenada Teachers Book Supplies to the tune of $498,083.75 on October 14th 2008.
She added that the total sum of money paid out to that book store by government was $636,559.70 for books.
According to the former Education Minister in the case of Standard bookshop which is operated by associates of the current government, the figure paid out to them was $650,625.35.
Sen. Bernadine said all of the payments were made to these book stores in 2008.
The former Education Minister also referred to the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure as prepared by the Ministry of Finance which gave an account of the school book program for 2010 and 2012.
Sen. Bernadine also went at lengths to share the contents of a memo between herself and a Permanent Secretary whom she did not identify.
It read in part “Payment to the purchasers as quite prompt. They together cleared over $5M.”
Sen. Bernadine recalled the objective behind the free school book program which began in the new school year in September 2008, some two months after the NDC defeated the NNP in general elections.
She told the host of the program that Congress introduced the scheme in 2008 to replace the previous text book rental program that targeted students identified as needy.
The new program, she said was based on the NDC’s philosophy that no child should be excluded from accessing free education simply because his or her parent or guardian cannot afford to buy the required books for school.
Sen. Bernadine admonished Minister Boatswain to do the job that is before him and stop complaining.
“Stop the whining and get on with the job. It is just excuses, excuses all the time, and it is a bad political decision like many you have been making,” she told him.
Sen. Bernadine believes the 19-month old NNP government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has lost its perspective on education.
She identified a number of areas which the new government has dismantled since taking office nearly two years ago.
She made mention of the virtual death of the free school book program that has been watered down making it very ineffective, and the doing away of incentives for those students who performed well in their CXC exams.