Jan 23, 2012 News
– Education Minister welcomes intervention
The enhancement of dormitories in hinterland schools has apparently now turned into a political debate between the main opposition party, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Government.
Opposition Leader, Brigadier (rtd.) David Granger, has called for an immediate, independent investigation into the administration of hinterland secondary schools, especially those with dormitories.
This call comes in the wake of recent reports of misconduct by teachers and students and mismanagement by the Ministry of Education.
Granger warned that as the Tenth Parliament starts, the Opposition will have no tolerance for sloppy management of the nation’s hinterland schools. He insisted that it is time to improve the conditions of hinterland schools in order to protect Guyana’s children from abuse.
But Education Minister Priya Manickchand is contending that “Granger’s interests may be late and even to a reasonable person may appear to be motivated by political opportunism. However, his interest is encouraged.”
“I would urge though that some balance and reality be attached to statements made about our children and that we desist from politicking with our young and innocent student population,” she stated.
Manickchand said that she welcomes the Opposition Leader’s “new found interest” in hinterland students, while pointing out that the Ministries of Education, Amerindian Affairs and Local Government are embarking on a detailed examination of the status of hinterland secondary schools with particular focus on the provision of services and the expansion of dormitories.
Supporting his claims, the Opposition Leader outlined several instances of what he called severe and chronic administrative problems that have hampered students’ education in many regions.
He said that about 2,500 students currently live in state-run dormitories from Mabaruma, Region One to Aishalton, Region Nine. There have been scant remedial actions on the problems over the years but there seems to have been no significant improvements in the management of the dormitories, Granger claimed.
Granger said that parents from Ituni only this week staged a protest over the poor conditions at the Kwakwani and Linden Foundation Secondary Schools’ hostels. The parents have claimed that their children were victims of physical violence and sexual abuse. A teenager, in one case, returned pregnant to her home community.
This week also saw members of the Parent-Teacher Association and residents of Port Kaituma protesting against the ‘deplorable’ conditions at the community primary school, calling on the administration to repair the unsatisfactory toilets in the compound.
He added, “The deaths of several students, which have not been satisfactorily explained or investigated, have been most distressing. It was recalled that three pre-teen girls perished in a fire which destroyed the female dormitory of the Waramadong Secondary School in September 2008.
“The male dormitory and a library of the Bartica Secondary School were destroyed by fire in December 2007.”
Granger also recounted instances where a 13-year-old student of the Charity Secondary School was found hanging in the washroom of the school’s dormitory in an ‘apparent suicide’ and a 15-year-old girl of Saint Ignatius Secondary School was found hanging from a Juniper tree in September.
He also recalled that in November 2011, the decomposing bodies of three students from the Aishalton Secondary School, were dug out from an abandoned mining pit, one week after they were reported missing.
Reports of sexual molestation of students by two teachers of the same school had been investigated only two months earlier.
Manickchand stated that Chief Education Officer, Olato Sam, and a team from the Education Ministry, are now at the St. Ignatius Secondary School, Region Nine, supplying more education materials and examining ways to better education delivery.
This comes one week after Sam visited the Santa Rosa Secondary School in Region One where a similar exercise was conducted. A team will also visit the dorm school at Paramakatoi next week.
The Education Minister emphasized that owing to Government’s interest in treating hinterland children equally, coupled with conscious and focused educational policies and programmes Guyana now has the largest number of hinterland students writing the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate.
She stressed that St Ignatius is just one example of the success of hinterland education. The enrollment and exam results are evidence of the success of the Government’s efforts. A new school is about to be opened in Sand Creek and more such interventions in hinterland education are being undertaken.
When ayuh will wake up?
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