Although a security arrangement for schools is not included in the Ministry of Education’s existing Strategic Plan, Education Minister, Shaik Baksh said that it is in fact a very serious management issue at every public school. As a result he noted that the regions are mandated to pay close attention to this issue.
“We have a system of Regional Education Management and the regions provide in their budget for security in the schools, but we (Central Ministry) do that for the schools in Georgetown and we are strengthening this as we go along.”
The Minister’s remarks came a mere few weeks after a male student at the Uitvlugt Secondary School on the West Coast of Demerara, was assaulted in a classroom in full view of teachers. Recounting his experience to this newspaper, the 15-year-old told how he was dealt blow after blow allegedly by a relative of another class mate.
According to him, the assault stemmed from an altercation he’d had with the class-mate a few days before.
“This girl does always pick trouble with other students. Just the other day she go to beat a girl for the girl’s food. It was just so she looked at me and slapped me and I say girl is what happen to you’, and I slap she back.” That incident occurred around lunch period and was not reported to any teacher. However, the instigator reportedly threatened to have the male student killed.
The following week, the instigator reportedly turned up at the school in the company of a male adult relative.
“All I hear is this strange man asking for me name and she was trying to point me out,” the alleged victim said. “He come straight at the back and holler: ‘you stand up’. I get up to move off and he hand me one cuff and slap in my face. All I could say is ‘man what you slap me for?’”
The matter has since been reported to the Welfare Department within the Region and the police.
It was just recently that the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation held a four-day workshop which was designed to improve the services offered by the Welfare and Guidance and Counselling Officers in the public education system.
A total of 44 professionals from across the 10 administrative regions were targeted through the workshop which had as its theme ‘Enhancing skills, improving lives through education’.
According to Chief Schools Welfare Officer, Carol Melville, the aim of the workshop was to ensure that the officers acquire the relevant skills to deal with the various situations that come to them daily.
With the information that was delivered to the participants, Melville noted that officers will now be more knowledgeable of the appropriate approach in addressing cases that arise. She related that while the Ministry is not always capable of dealing with all forthcoming cases, efforts are made to refer them to the relevant authorities.
“We do not deal with all of the cases so we refer them at times. For example, cases where children have never been registered we refer them to the Legal Aid, cases like child abuse and parents’ financial difficulties will go to the Child Protection Agency,” she noted.
In the instance of assault cases which occur in schools, Melville revealed that officers and teachers alike are fully aware that such cases must be reported to the police without delay, even as she noted that every effort is made to follow up such cases.
“Whenever it comes to our attention that students are being abused at home we do our own little inquiry and once we find the need for referral we will do so but we will also follow up as well,” she asserted.
The Education Ministry, Melville noted, works in close collaboration with the Human Services Ministry in particular, each ensuring that the necessary referrals are made.
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