THIS week our team took to the Ancient County of Berbice, bringing you stories from New Amsterdam and East Canje. We hope you enjoy! Stories are by Michel Outridge and Shirley Thomas. Photos by Adrian Narine.
WITH 32 years in the education sector under her belt, Bhagmattie La Cruz, who started out as a secondary school teacher, has amassed vast knowledge. As such, she ‘is in the know’ when it comes to overseeing the operations of schools in the region.
She is the acting Regional Education Officer (REdO), Bhagmattie La Cruz of Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) whose task is humongous but is optimistic that students in that region will outdo their fellow students at examinations.
La Cruz told the Pepperpot Magazine that her job is to ensure that schools in the region are supervised, among other responsibilities.
She related that since February this year, they have been doing well, especially during the period leading up to the second quarter, as regards their work programme.
“We had good participation in the 2019 Mashramani activities and an incident-free National Grade Six Assessment and the commencement of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) [Examinations] of the May-June sitting. This year, at the end of the first quarter, we were able to implement about 85 percent of our workplan and we have been moving apace in the second quarter,” La Cruz said.
The senior official added that she is optimistic that they would attain a high level of implementation by the end of this quarter.
Vision/plan for regional education
“It is our vision that we are going to continue to improve our community alliances while that is, I would like to see more persons being involved in the support of education in this region and recently we have launched out regional Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) body.
We subsequently, had the sub-regional launching, followed by the regional PTA body and through that, we are hoping that schools where we do not have such strong PTA bodies, we will be able to advocate so that if not all or most of our schools will have vibrant PTAs,” La Cruz said.
She pointed out that they have the Welfare Unit of the Department of Education, which is a little understaffed at this point. The welfare officers, however, have been working assiduously because there are many schools in the region and there are issues; some of these at times are much to deal with, but they have been doing a good job.
La Cruz said, “In relation to having our agents in schools, we have also had our truancy campaigns where we look at these children not going to school. We have had reports, as well and when we receive such reports we visit the homes of children who are not going to school. They have been doing very well in that area, but the downside is that sometimes when they get these children back into the schools, another few weeks they are out of school again and then we have to start all over again to bring them back.”
La Cruz noted that after students sit the CSEC exams, they have the start of work-study, which is done in two phases and they have since sent out correspondence asking organisations to facilitate students from the various secondary schools in the region.
She stating too that, to some extent, they place learners who belong to the region but go to schools outside the region into the work environment as well.
In Region Six, she disclosed that they have 129 active schools which comprise 57 nursery schools, 52 primary schools, 17 secondary schools and two Practical Instruction Centres.
Performance for Grade Six Assessment
“I am hoping it will improve in 2019; last year it remained relatively constant, because prior to 2017 the results were not that good, but we saw a significant increase in 2017 and the region was able to maintain that. We are on average at this level. I think our parents need to emphasise reading at an early age too. Much emphasis is being placed on gadgets; yes, those are all educational gadgets, children can truly learn, however, I feel strongly that it does not replace the value of books and reading. So I think that while our children are fortunate they have access to gadgets, at the same time we need to ensure that they sharpen their reading skills in order to read to learn,” La Cruz said.
Repairs to schools
She told the Pepperpot Magazine that one of the things they have going in the region is the Department of Works, tasked with fixing schools — that is, the buildings, the sanitary facilities and other infrastructure.
“But it is a challenge, however. There is only one department responsible for all the schools in that region with staff constraints. She is of the view that they can overcome this issue. We would be in a better position attending to the needs of the schools as they arise. But I must give credit to the Department of Works, they are able to do these in the face of challenges,” La Cruz said.
Allied Arts and Support
Allied Arts are very much active in the Department of Education manned by the coordinator, who is very competent and reliable, so much so that they were able to participate in all the regional and national events.
When it comes to support, La Cruz said that in the technical and vocational areas, while the ministry has programmes in place, one of their difficulties in this region is the inadequate number of qualified teachers to tutor in this area.
She noted that the region is an agriculture-based one and technical and vocational expertise are required to boost education in Region Six.
La Cruz has spent about 32 years in the education sector and started as a temporary qualified teacher at Central Corentyne Secondary.
Adrian Narine photos saved in a folder in Graphics as Berbice.
0177 and 0171 – Acting Regional Education Officer, Bhagmattie La Cruz (Adrian Narine photo)