More than 600 immigrant children due to start school

The Balearic ministry of education is working overtime to prepare for the new school year, and has been swamped by 631 requests for places for immigrant children in the months of July and August alone. There were only 650 requests in the whole of the previous school year. These requests are for Palma, Minorca and Ibiza, information on schools in the outlying towns and villages of Majorca was not given. Between immigrants and residents, the education system will have to absorb 2'000 pupils more than the previous year. In view of this, the ministry has already announced the incorporation of 1'000 new teachers in the Balearic educational network. In order to cater for the increased demand and to improve the quality of education, the government has approved an investment of 42 million euros for the construction, expansion and improvement in schools in the period 2002-2003. This was announced by government leader Francesc Antich and his deputy Pere Sampol. The money corresponds to the second stage of a project to improve school infrastructures on the islands. The first stage had a budget of 54 million euros. The government announced that by the end of the legislature it will have spent 96 million euros on schools and a further 24 million euros on improvements to the Balearic university. Antich and Sampol explained that the 42 million euros would be used to build five secondary schools, eight infants and primary schools and a conservatory, the equivalent of 207 new classrooms. The government also plans to enlarge existing schools, providing a further 20 classrooms for secondary education, 27 classrooms for infants and 12 for primary schools. Palma will receive 10.1 million euros in this second stage of the plans, compared to 78 million in the first part. Antich said that thanks to the funding, the Balearics will close the legislature with 14 new secondary, 16 infants and primary schools plus the new conservatory in Ibiza. Sampol pointed out that the Balearic government had taken over responsibility for education in 1998 with an annual deficit of 24'000 million pesetas a year, as Madrid had not taken into account the growth in the school population. He went on to say that the current legislature represented the period of the highest investment in education in the history of the Balearics. The government also said that the plans for new schools would help the construction sector.

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