MINISTER of Social Cohesion Amna Ally has upped her interaction with communities and other groups as she pushes ahead with the administration’s promotion of social cohesion. For this week the minister and her technical staff met with members of the entertainment industry as well as educators and students in the Berbice region.
During her interactions with members of the entertainment fraternity, Ally urged them to “big up social cohesion”, declaring that she was eager to see the benefits that would accrue from partnering with them as they are able to reach the public in their comfort zones.
Participants included Linden ‘Jumbie’ Jones, Gavin Mendonca, Andrea Joseph of the National Communications Network (NCN), Amar Ramessar of Radio Guyana, Mark Pierre of 89.1 FM, Jaidev Doodnauth of NCN Radio, Surida Nagreadi of 98.5 FM, WR Reaz of Team MMR, DJ Mo Money, DJ Killer Feelings, Lexxus Blingers, Soyini Fraser, Public Relations Officer of Hits and Jams Entertainment, Troy Peters, Public Relations Officer of Banks DIH Limited, Lorry Wills, Brand Manager, Demerara Distillers Limited and others, who met with the minister in the auditorium of the National Sports Resource Centre on Woolford Avenue.
Although the ministry plans to engage with other media representatives, Minister Ally said this meeting was convened with those from the entertainment sector first “because we believe that you have a very important role to play in nation-building… You all are very influential to varying degrees. You command a certain amount of attention; you have your own fan clubs and captive audiences and in many ways you are listened to. You are popular and you are frequently heard in and out of Guyana; that is why you are important in this process.”
The meeting was the third in a series of consultations the ministry has planned to engage all of the religious groups, communities and organisations in Guyana to help devise new strategies on social cohesion.
“Under my stewardship we want to undertake those initiatives that would allow Guyanese, irrespective of our diversities…to partner in an atmosphere of trust… We want to promote nation-building,” Minister Ally said, adding that “we want small groups and communities to contribute in strategic ways to Guyana’s social, economic and political landscape.”
SOCIAL COHESION DAY
The minister then invited the group to participate in a roster of national programmes aimed at promoting social cohesion, principally in schools, and in the observances of Social Cohesion Day on May 11.
Participants Jones, Reaz, Mendonca, Pierre, Fraser, Nagreadi, Ramessar, Doodnauth, DJ Mo Money, DJ Killer Feelings and Lexxus Blingers agreed to form a Working Group to collaborate with the ministry for this event.
The group met with Sharon Patterson, Programme Coordinator at the ministry, immediately following the meeting. Representatives of sponsors Banks DIH, Demerara Distillers Limited and Hits and Jams Entertainment also agreed that a team from the ministry could meet with their staff members to educate them about social cohesion.
Meanwhile, in Berbice, Ally told education officials and head-teachers that they have an important role to play in creating an enabling environment in schools that can foster social cohesion. The minister made these remarks in her opening address at the meeting, which was held in the auditorium of the St. Aloysius Primary School in New Amsterdam. She said the objective of the meeting is to highlight the importance of social cohesion to nation-building and to share new ideas and techniques about how it can be promoted in schools.
Education officers Claude Johnson, Selestine La Rose, Basmatie Etwaroo-Baboolal, Bhagmattie La Cruz, Regional Education Officer Volika Jaikishun, Education Officer (Nursery) Hazel Mathews-George, Head Teacher at the St. Aloysius Primary School, Hollis Schweirs, Head Teacher at the Canje Secondary School, Vanessa Jacobs, other head teachers and managers and representatives from the Guyana Teachers Union turned out in their numbers for the meeting.
Minister Ally said schools have long been recognised as strategic institutions that can have a significant impact on social cohesion in Guyana; therefore it is imperative that Guyana’s education system be efficiently structured to promote national unity.
“Education can play a vital part in building social cohesion among diverse groups in any society,” she said. “If used positively it can forge a national identity which unites communities [as] schools prepare students with the knowledge and skills necessary for the future to participate effectively in a democratic society such as ours. It is a critical mechanism in the promotion of social cohesion through the transmission of knowledge and the shaping of attitudes of individuals towards diversity and change.”
She also debunked the widely-held belief that social cohesion was only about race and ethnicity, pointing out that it aims to bring people together, regardless of their differences, whether those differences were based on culture, economic or social background, age, geography, race, political persuasion or otherwise.
“Social cohesion is the willingness of members of a society to cooperate with each other in order to survive and prosper. I want you to understand that this willingness to cooperate means people freely choose to form partnerships. We don’t want segregation. We’ve got to meet, come together and form partnerships,” Minister Ally said.
The minister told the gathering that when people choose to form partnerships it is because they have a reasonable expectation of achieving their goals. This can only happen “because they are willing to cooperate and share the fruits of their endeavours equitably… this is what social cohesion is all about,” she said.
She said her ministry and the Education Ministry are also collaborating in this endeavour and she charged teachers to take up their roles to promote national unity. She suggested that this can be done by incorporating brief messages about the importance of social cohesion in ‘moral talks’ with students and by encouraging their participation in extra-curricular activities such as cultural programmes to learn with, from and about other groups; through field visits to other diverse communities and by promoting shared values.
Meanwhile, Education Officer Johnson thanked Minister Ally for her presentation, noting that it had become “more of a staff development session as she has expertly and aptly explained the concept of social cohesion. We are all more enlightened by her presentation.”
Mathews-George, another education officer, shared those views and thanked Minister Ally for sharing her knowledge and experience with the group and likened her presentation “to a full day’s meal, not a snack.” (Ministry of the Presidency)