Letter: Time for concrete steps to protect the nation’s children

Minister of Education Priya Manickchand

Dear Editor,

The Ministry of Education must take concrete steps to protect the nation’s children. While schools are being renovated, new schools built, smart classrooms created, technology accessed by schools, teacher training upped and curriculum redesigned the most important element of the school system, its students continue to be bullied and killed as violence escalates.

For years The Caribbean Voice and other stakeholders have been calling for counsellors in schools. Now that the resources – human and otherwise – are available, can the Ministry say what are the inhibiting factors?

A national bullying program must reach all schools and be implemented by an entity or individuals trained in acknowledged and proven? bullying programs, such as the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which is currently being implemented by several Caribbean nations.

There is a designated representative for this program in Barbados and he has already started working with schools in Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda. Can the Ministry of Education reach out to him and at the minimum implement a train-the-trainer program for teachers in Guyana.

As well schools must be mandated not to send students home during the school day unless a verified caregiver picks up that child, especially if the child is ill or injured. While a principal can and should do whatever is possible for an injured child, that cannot be enough unless that principal is a trained nurse at the minimum. This also brings to the fore the issue of school nurses. The Ministry of Education should seriously consider placing nurses in schools. More immediately staff should be trained in first aid, including CPR.

Also, the Ministry of Education needs to work with the Police Force to establish a unit for schools so that every school can have a police officer, whose responsibility will include preventing students from walking out of schools and outsiders from walking into schoolyards and gaining entry into schools.

Finally, all schools must have an attendance monitoring staff who will call parents to find out about students who are absent to make sure. The whereabouts of every student is known at all times. Perhaps this same person can also act as a parent coordinator and be given other related roles.

Annan Boodram