Some 14% of CSEC students not being engaged
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Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand

-Minister Manickchand engages religious bodies for support

A total of 10,216 students were expected to be preparing for next year’s Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination but, based on the Ministry of Education’s attendance records, some 1,424 students are not being engaged by the school system, whether physical or virtual.

These facts were presented in a press release issued by the Ministry of Education (MoE) on Saturday. The statement quoted the Deputy Chief Education Officer (Amerindian and Hinterland Education Development), Mr. Marti De Souza, as saying that information gathering revealed several reasons as to why some students have not returned to the classrooms.

“Some of the reasons that were recorded include 21 students becoming pregnant, 31 students gaining employment, 89 students not returning due to fear of the (COVID 19) pandemic, 44 students because of financial difficulties and 48 students that have relocated,” the MoE statement specified. That number, the Ministry said, was higher, but with effort has been reduced.

The statement explained that the ministry was unable to reach 988 of the unengaged students, in an effort to ascertain their reasons for not being in school, whether physically or virtually.

Meanwhile, in an effort to garner critical support needed to address this troubling situation, the ministry has moved to engage in excess of 200 religious leaders. The engagements were hosted virtually. Subject Minister, Priya Manickchand, explained that the ministry, through its schools, is present in almost every community in Guyana, from nursery to post-secondary level.

Similarly, it has been recognised that religious institutions are also present in almost every community throughout the country. This is in addition to Toshaos for the hinterland communities.

As such, the ministry believes that Churches, Temples, Masjids and toshaos can “add another layer of organised interest, monitoring, supervision and reporting, which would be sure to benefit the students.

According to the statement, Minister Manickchand has asked religious leaders to “take account of all the children in their congregations and identify the students who are in school, not in school or are not being engaged while at home.”
Minister Manickchand said that this initiative is not a truancy campaign, but an initiative to support students gravely affected by COVID 19, so as to ensure that they are meaningfully engaged while at home.

During the engagement with religious leaders, a line of communication was established, whereby a phone number was shared so that senior officers at central ministry can be contacted and made aware of any issue preventing a child or children from returning to school, or be engaged at home. Such reports, the ministry noted, would be addressed immediately.

Shaik Moeen ul-Hack of the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), commended the Ministry for the initiative. He said that after the Ministry made contact with the organisation, the CIOG did a survey through the Masjids across the country regarding why some students did not return to school when it was re-opened. This survey’s result was similar to the ministry’s findings.

He added that the CIOG will assist the ministry in sensitising the community about children returning to schools and all relevant matters. Reverend, Dr. Noel Holder, of the Victoria and Ann’s Grove Congregational Churches, also commended the ministry for engaging the religious bodies. He noted that based on his observation, behavioral change is one of the major challenges during this pandemic.

He said that while parents are afraid to send their children to school, in some cases, the said children are playing with friends in the community without masks. According to him, getting persons to adapt to the new norm is of great importance moving forward.

Ms. Chandrowtie Sarran of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha expressed similar sentiments about the initiative, offering to provide necessary assistance. The ministry considers this initiative as an expansion of its monitoring mechanism whereby each Church, Temple or Masjid can examine the situation in their respective communities and have direct contact with the ministry so that immediate action can be taken.

The participants agreed to have additional meetings to continue to craft an effective approach to the issue which will see religious bodies working alongside government to reach and support the nation’s children.

The Education Minister is looking to continue and further strengthen the collaboration with the religious community. A similar meeting will soon be convened with Toshaos of the country.

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