Parents of students of the Annai Secondary School in the North Rupununi, Region Nine are beginning to think that the Ministries of Education and Social Protection have forgotten them.
Over the past year the school has seen an increase in its female students becoming pregnant at an early age and there has been no social intervention to address the problem.
The facility, which is the only secondary institution in the North Rupununi, is the temporary home for 158, mostly indigenous girls, who are housed in dormitories. The administration there is battling to contain social problems such as rampant teenage pregnancy while at the same time, trying to provide an education to the students.
One parent revealed that there is a high rate of teenage pregnancy and drug use at the Annai Secondary School, a situation of which the Ministry is aware but is doing little to address.
It was revealed to this newspaper that for this year, there were five cases of teenage pregnancy at the Annai Secondary School alone, all of which went unreported to the Welfare Officer in the District.
“The Welfare (officer) never received a report and there was no investigation. The youngest girl was a Grade Eight girl, who was 14 years old,” the concerned parent told Kaieteur News.
It was reported that there is only one Dorm Mother and one Dorm Father to look after all the children in the dormitory.
“These children are slick; it is difficult to monitor them properly in the darkness, especially when the security guard does not turn up, which is quite often,” the parent said.
When contacted, one Welfare Officer in the district noted that (statutory) rape is very prevalent in Region Nine, “But from what I was told, it is the Amerindians’ way of life.”
This newspaper was told that as soon as a student realizes that she is pregnant, she quickly leaves the dorm and returns to her village, never to attend school again.
“They never get the benefit of expert counseling with a view to re-integrating them into the school system.
But addressing the issue requires expert help from outside, help which the Ministries of Education and Social Protection will definitely have to find a way of providing quickly.
The Welfare Officer said that the area of teenage pregnancy is one that needs expert intervention in most Amerindian communities, since most parents in those areas appear embarrassed to discuss it with their children.
“When talking about it in Social Studies, it’s a ticklish matter —you can see the expressions on the children’s faces. I suspect that it is a part of their culture to hide things from the outside even if things are affecting them in a negative way,” the Welfare Officer stated.
What is worrying for the parent is the fact that “things are happening” at the St. Ignatius Secondary School, which is located at the other end of the Rupununi, but “nothing is happening for Annai.
For several weeks now, the facility has been without electricity, compounding the myriad of other problems which desperately require urgent social remedy.
“The compound has been without electricity for a month now and the place is very dark at nights, and since the place is not properly fenced, the teachers and admin staff are faced with the possibility of the children leaving their dorms without permission to do things other than school work,” one irate parent told this newspaper.
The parent said that they had a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Education and promises were made, but to date those promises have not been fulfilled.
“We asked for a generator but never got a response,” the parent declared.
“The police are so far away from the school, so if anything should happen in the darkness, the children and the teachers are at the mercy of whoever wants to attack the school,” she added.
“The teachers cannot do anything after school, such as preparing for the next day’s classes. It’s all darkness,” the parent added.
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