…reintegrating teen moms, among other concerns
Discussions pertaining to the discrimination students are facing in schools, the implementation process of reintegrating adolescent mothers into schools and support government is providing to anti-bullying initiatives, among others, were had with the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) and the Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry, recently.
According to a statement from SASOD, the civil society delegation requested that the Ministry of Education update the Code of Conduct for Teachers to expand the grounds for discrimination to include those in the Guyana Constitution, while adding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
SASOD and GRPA have asked the Minister to “amend the non-discrimination clause of the Code under Section B, Commitment to Colleagues, to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed, age, disability, marital status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, language, birth, social class, pregnancy, religion, conscience, belief or culture, nor interfere with the free participation of colleagues in the affairs of their association(s).”
The groups also proposed that the non-discrimination clause under Section D on Commitment to Students be similarly updated.
According to SASOD, the Ministry needed an updated and comprehensive policy that is in line with the Guyana Constitution, the newly-crafted National Policy on the Reintegration of Adolescent Mothers into the Formal School System and a document that supports the goals and vision of the Ministry.
SASOD said it has recorded cases of students being bullied based on their perceived sexualities, “particularly effeminate boys.”
“The non-discrimination provisions would fulfil an obligation to students to protect them against homophobic and transphobic bullying…although the stigmatizing nature of anti-LGBT bullying precludes robust data collection on the problem, minority students also need the Ministry’s full protection at all levels.”
According to the statement, the Minister responded that she will be guided by the professional advice of the Ministry’s Legal Officer, Kellyann Payne-Hercules, who was also present at the meeting, but indicated that she does not see these amendments to be problematic or damaging since they are in line with her vision and the Ministry’s strategic plan to ensure a safe and comfortable environment where all students can play, learn and work together for the advancement of the nation.
Among other highlighted concerns, Minister Henry was reportedly open to partnership on a National Anti-Bullying Campaign proposed by GRPA and SASOD, organized in collaboration with other key stakeholders for Education Month in September.
“Through this campaign, secondary school students will be sensitized on the various forms of violence, and made aware of social support services and redress mechanisms if they are being bullied. The campaign will include a nation-wide essay competition for Grades 7 to 9 students on bullying and discrimination based on gender in schools” it was outlined.