Education on leaders' agendas

THE state of public education was a prominent theme for both Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and opposition leader Perry Christie as they addressed supporters last night. Mr Ingraham told an FNM crowd in Yamacraw that Mr Christie's neglect of education was one of his "greatest betrayals". "In their five years in office from 2002 to 2007," he said, "the PLP went right back to their selfish ways. They were so busy looking after themselves they couldn't find time to build a single school. "In this, our latest term, we built three new schools and expanded eight more. The FNM increased national and international scholarships for qualifying Bahamians from the PLP's $400,000 in their last year in office to $8 million this year. "And we increased tuition funding to COB for Bahamian students from $5 million in their last term in office to $25 million this term - we spent five times as much on tuition for Bahamians at COB." Mr Ingraham said if re-elected, the FNM will move forward with their 10-year plan for education and establish a Bahamas Youth Development Corps to allow Bahamians between the ages of 18 and 25 "to volunteer their time at homework centres, after-school programmes, and to assist the elderly, the disabled and the disadvantaged while earning funds towards higher education or entrepreneurial ventures". For his part, Mr Christie told supporters in South Andros the FNM borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure, "skyrocketing the national debt" - with most of the money going to foreign contractors - while education remained underfunded. He said: "Since last spring, the PLP has been calling for the nation to double our investment in education and training. "I know what this moment in our history requires, Bahamians - we need a revolution in education and training. "I'm not just talking about tinkering at the edges. I'm talking about innovation and more resources at every level, from pre-school all the way up to workers already in the workforce who need regular training to make sure their skills stay current and they can compete with the best. "We're going to upgrade the nation's schools, make them technology-and-energy-friendly, 21st century schools, so we make sure our children have the tools they need to participate fully in the information and technology revolutions which are sweeping the world. "We're going to have Career Path Academies, so we can dramatically expand vocational and technical training and apprenticeship opportunities." Mr Christie said this education revolution will be for all Bahamians - "for everyone who wants to improve their chances of success, improve their skills and their knowledge, for everyone who knows they can compete with the best in the world if their government believes in them and invests in them". Mr Ingraham's take on the PLP's education plan was somewhat less optimistic.


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