Jul 29, 2016 News
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is currently conducting a study to determine the reasons why large numbers of children are out of school.
Statistics provided show that some 16 percent of Guyanese children do not receive a nursery education, while 15 percent of the country’s adolescents are school dropouts.
Paolo Marchi, Deputy Representative of UNICEF, told a workshop recently held at the Regency Suites on Hadfield Street, Georgetown, that it is important for the country to determine the causes of these children being out of school.
“Where are they? What do they do all day? Are they safe?” Marchi questioned.
He said that the Global Out-Of-School Children Initiative offers an opportunity for Guyana to respond to these questions.
It has been viewed as unfair that children have to remain out of school due to circumstances that they may have no control over.
“Like simply because they might have been born in a remote area, or have a disability, or victims of poor families.”
Marchi said that Guyana has committed to the sustainable development goals, and one of those goals spoke about the quality education for all and the promotion of lifelong learning.
He added that UNICEF was committed to ensuring that the goal was realized hence the purpose of the workshop to find the root causes.
The deputy representative said it was hoped that the workshop would provide the understanding to eradicate the scourge in the near future.
Meanwhile, Acting Chief Education Officer Ms. Donna Chapman said that it is unacceptable that existing statistics are not being used.
“There are several assessments; National Grade Two, National Grade Four, which I must remind,
was always meant to be diagnostic…then we have Grade Six and Nine Assessments, but although we have all those assessments, where are we at this time?”Chapman queried.
“Are we using the data coming out of those assessments? Are we really using the data to inform us so we can make better decisions? Are we using the data to help those children who have not been performing that well?”
Chapman warned persons against thinking that only societal ills are responsible for children being out of school.
“We need to look at the education system. Do we use the data to carry out remedial classes?”
Chapman said that if educators would examine the data, it would show the need for students to take remedial classes.
“But are we training our teachers to do that?” Chapman asked.
She said that while the SEN (Special Education Needs) Unit has been established, it is grossly understaffed.
“We need to adequately staff that unit to ensure that more attention is paid to slow learners…because what is happening now is that they are looking more at disabilities,” she added.
Admitting that social ills do affect many children, she said that the country has made significant strides in helping them.
“As you know, for decades we have been distributing exercise books. We’ve reached a stage where we have been distributing text books for core subjects and technical vocational subjects.”
There is also the distribution of school uniforms and the school feeding programme that has been resulting in many success stories.
“There is still a lot more to be done, but we have seen increased attendance in some areas.”
Meanwhile, there has been much debate on the issue of having guidance counselors in school, especially considering that Guyana’s suicide figures are among the highest in the world, and large numbers of the country’s children do not attend school, or have dropped out before completing their secondary education.
“There are many children who are coming to our schools with a lot of emotional conflicts. Are our teachers trained to spot the child who has the potential to drop out…we have many of them sitting there, but they are not relating to what is happening?” Chapman pointed out.
She said that while teaching the curriculum is key, it is important that schools produce mentally stable children.
“Do we have adequate guidance and counselors? And that’s always a big no.”
The question of whether the Ministry of Education can afford counselors has always been asked.
“I believe we know of that famous quote which says, “‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,’ so we have to afford it. We have to find the money.”
She also cited the importance of having officers equipped enough to provide career guidance for secondary school students.
“Many children are leaving our schools…secondary schools at that, and they don’t know what they want to be – their career ambition.”
There are also many cases where children, when they finally figure out what career they want to pursue, realize that they did not study the required subjects.
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