Under the theme “Empowering student leaders as partners of change” the Education Ministry installed 13 student councils in schools, the occasion was held at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD).
Among those in attendance were Guyana Teachers’ Union President Colin Bynoe, Chief Education Officer Olato Sam, National Parent Teacher Association Coordinator Carol Benn, as well as other top education officials, teachers and scores of students.
The Education Ministry on Wednesday, last, inaugurated the student councils which will also enable students to play a more active role in the decision-making processes of their schools. It is expected that the pilot will be extended to all schools.
The new structured and better organised system stems from recommendations put forward by stakeholders during the countrywide consultations on the education legislation. That legislation is currently before the Attorney General Chambers.
Chief Education Officer, Olato Sam, said that apart from giving students a greater voice, the councils will increase students’ participation in matters that affect them, create a forum for students to develop civic values, help students to understand the importance of compromise and improve classroom and school management.
More importantly, he said, it will pave the way for the establishment of a better system of democracy and good governance in schools.
National PTA Coordinator, Carol Benn, said the move is intended to make students more visible partners in their education and be part of the solution of matters that affect them and their schools.
The council, she explained, creates a safe space and an ideal forum to address matters of bullying, gangs and other ills that negatively affect the school system.
The council for each school will consist of a president, a vice president, a secretary and a public relations officer, all of whom will be elected by the students of that school.
Education Minster Shaik Baksh addressing the gathering said that though the student council replaces the prefect system, the innovation is not entirely new to schools. He pointed out that the revamping of the old structure in favour of one that is well structured and better organised, where students can play a more active role in some of the decision making processes of their school, is new.
The thrust of the councils, Baksh stressed, is not to allow students to intrude on the powers of teachers, but to work along with the latter for the upliftment of the disciplinary and academic standards and the general image of their schools.
The minister said though the councils are governed by clearly established guidelines, there will be issues from time-to-time, and the Education Ministry has established a team to look into and resolve these matters.
Students who are part of the council, he noted, will be seen as ambassadors of change, and will have a key role to play to engender the chances expected of them. These students, Baksh said, have to work along with their teachers to eliminate violence, discourage gangs and be role positive models to students.
About three months ago, a national student council was launched at the University of Guyana, and according to Baksh, the various student councils can be part of that body which aims to give students a greater voice on issues affecting them.
He said that one of the broader objects of councils is to develop articulate students with sound leadership skills in the school system.
Preliminary reports have indicated that the programme is making an impact, but apart from this, the education ministry has been placing greater focus on drama, sports and physical education to create more rounded students in the school system.
Following the conclusion of the launch, the education ministry convened a workshop to enlighten teachers of the roles and functions of the council, their part on that body, and to impress upon students their expectations as council members.
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