Minister of??Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo (FP)

Most of the camp directors and their assistants who were involved in this year’s National Easter Camp Programme have been paid, while the others will receive their money shortly.

This disclosure has come from Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who said: "Forty-five of the 54 camp directors, 35 of the 40 assistant directors and 263 of the 286 camp assistants have been paid. All the caterers and the cleaners have also been paid."

She was speaking at a press conference today at St. Michael’s Cathedral to discuss the National Summer Camp Programme.

Dr. Byer Suckoo admitted that her Ministry had "some challenges" dealing with the accounting system for the programme, as well as her own accounting staff and she apologised to all those persons who had to wait long to be reimbursed.

But, the Minister assured the public that a different system had been put in place so all those involved in the programme would be paid early. "We have established bank accounts for them and they have all given their information…They are going to get some money up front … and they will be reimbursed periodically, in tranches, throughout the camp," she explained.

When questioned about the response of the principals to her Ministry using their schools for some of the camps, Dr. Byer Suckoo said: "We’ve had our challenges with the availability of some of the schools. When we started the programme, the Ministry of Education gave us a list of schools which would have been available for use. So, we went ahead and planned camps based on that information. But, then we had principals who came forward and said they would rather the camps were not held in their schools and for reasons that seemed trivial. Some said they had projects they wanted to do, such as painting, things they could do when we left after six weeks.

"But, some of them really did seem to think, ???this is not happening in my school’. When Minister Jones, who was overseas on Government business when a lot of this was unfolding came back, he was met with all of these school principals who were saying ???we don’t want our schools to be used’. And I think that is where he had to say that the school at the end of the day is government property and if government decides we are going to use these schools for the purposes of camp, then we expect you to cooperate. Planning for 70 camps is not easy, but it would have been easier if we had the cooperation of all the stakeholders, but we did not have that," the Minister lamented.

She noted though, that the concerns which the principals sent to her Ministry were redirected to the Ministry of Education, and dealt with, and camps would now be held at the majority of those schools.

Camp Odyssey starts next Monday at 70 locations across the island, and 7,000 children are expected to attend. It will cost approximately $4 million, and over 50 caterers have been approved to provide campers with nutritious meals.

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