Sep 21, 2020 News
Indigenous communities in Guyana are currently facing a gap in the delivery of education, a critical issue amid a global pandemic according to Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Lenox Shuman who made this observation in his presentation at the Budget Debate 2020 last Friday.
Shuman, who is representing the joinder list of A New and United Guyana, The New Movement and the Liberty and Justice Party, the latter of which he cofounded, was making his maiden presentation in Parliament.
He stated that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many “systemic failures and deficiencies” within Guyana’s education sector and the governmental sector, leaving Indigenous people struggling all across the country. Shuman said that children in the coastland areas are having an easier time ensuring they get access to their education as compared to those children living in the hinterland regions. Coastland children are more equipped with the necessary tools for online learning, which has now become the main route in the delivery of education since schools being closed in March.
“Our communities are struggling through COVID-19. Schools on the coast are enjoying internet access, TV, and radio broadcast learning tools, while many of our Indigenous communities are expected to self-teach in a language that is somewhat alien to them, in preparation for exams that are mostly void of their collective histories,” Shuman said.
Shuman also stated that governments have been neglecting the Indigenous languages. He maintained that languages such as Portuguese and Spanish are added to almost every school curriculum, yet Indigenous languages are being referred to as “dialect” by governments and they are slowly dying away. He stated that it is hard for those who speak Indigenous languages to access a proper education because they are often being taught in a language that is “alien” to them.
The Deputy Speaker said that where there is a right allocated to a group of people in the constitution, there must be provisions for those rights and in this case, it is not being done. Shuman also highlighted several other issues within Indigenous communities and hinterland regions. He stated that these areas are lacking proper roads and there are “sluggish” internet connections amongst other things. He noted that these issues are indictments of all previous administrations and he hopes for them to be addressed.
He also revealed that there is now the threat of climate change within these areas, posing a risk to these Indigenous communities and the way of life of the people residing in them.
President Irfaan Ali had announced an allocation of $800M for the Amerindian Development Fund. Many measures have also since been announced to cater for the Indigenous communities in Guyana, many of which are yet to be implemented, but Shuman has stated that he is pleased with several aspects of the proposed plans for Guyana’s Indigenous peoples.
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