Education Ministry plans intensive reading campaign

Guyana Chronicle
January 1, 2001

CHIEF Education Officer, Mr Ed Caesar has said that if greater success is to be achieved in the education sector, and the country's developmental strides are to be enhanced, the contribution of teachers will be critical to everything the ministry plans this year.

Acknowledging the contribution of teachers to the development of the nation, he last week said that in this year, greater emphasis will be placed on teachers - improving their welfare, encouraging greater parent/teacher relations and putting systems in place for teacher upgrading.

Reflecting on the performance of teachers and other education functionaries during 2000, and expressing appreciation to them for the work done despite constraints, he said:

"Our teachers in the main, were able to find solutions to address constraints and difficulties, despite the odds. I therefore take this opportunity to salute our teachers."

He noted many young and inexperienced teachers were 'harshly tested' but stood their grounds.

"They achieved, even in the absence of a hand to guide them."

Caesar said that special thanks and praise should be given, particularly to hinterland and deep riverain teachers who operated under conditions which many others would find difficult.

And on plans for upgrading the education and skills of teachers, he pointed to education training programmes already in place which will, during the year 2001 be carefully and deliberately evaluated, with a view to ensuring that consolidation is realised.

Programmes already on stream include:

** technical training at the Government Technical Institute;

** training teachers in Technical/Vocational education;

** upgrading the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) training programme to enable some to effectively teach students at the Fifth Form level in Secondary Schools on graduating from the college.

Meanwhile, parents are being called upon to assist in encouraging strong school/community relationships.

Emphasising the critical need for parents' contribution to the success of schools, Caesar appealed to parents to ensure that young people attend school - regularly and punctually.

While moving to address the problem of truancy, the ministry is also concerned about the problem of schoolgirls loitering at the corners under the pretext of waiting for transportation to get home - many times, long after they should have been in their homes, he said.

But rising above the difficulties and challenges of 2000 the Chief Education Officer said the year ahead promises to be one of even greater challenges.

He unveiled an ambitious plan for 2001 which places emphasis on three major areas of the education sector:

** management and supervision;

** early childhood education care and development and

** literacy and numeracy.

Meanwhile, with regard to management and supervision, Caesar said that during this year, great emphasis will be placed on accountability, and each teacher will be expected to be fully aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each child under his or her supervision.

And on the programme for literacy and numeracy, he appealed to every citizen to support the literacy drive, adding that the ministry will continue to support the several non-governmental organisations which are promoting literacy programmes, and more specifically - reading.

Caesar said the ministry has a vision of making "reading" a household word and is urging that every effort be made to ensure that positive and if need be - drastic action be taken to make reading a habit.

"We must all become addicted to reading," he said, adding that no effort would be spared in this regard.

The ministry is also encouraging the formation of clubs in and out of schools, aimed at promoting reading habits and developing the communication skills of youth.

In retrospect, he said the negatives to be bemoaned over the last year include:

** Having to compete with rising violence, crime and low moral values invading homes of young people via the television.

** The wanton loss of lives of school children caught up in the road carnage and by water.

** The loss of skills of several experienced and highly qualified teachers.

** At times the breakdown of moral codes - dress behaviour patterns displayed by school children.

Caesar observed: "In many quarters, there was the feeling that many children were directing their parents at times."

Despite the difficulties and challenges encountered, he exhorted the nation's teachers and education officers not to lose focus.

He urged that they continue to work selflessly for young people, and continue to reach out to parents and other community members so they can better understand the important supportive role expected of them. (SHIRLEY THOMAS)

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