Conference to focus on child abuse
- police, teachers to attend

Guyana Chronicle
November 21, 2000

INCREASED reports of child abuse around the country, especially in Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica) have led to officials organising a special conference on the issue, First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo said yesterday.

Mrs Jagdeo, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Rights of a Child (NCROC), explained that the child abuse conference billed for next Monday is aimed at defining the roles of the various sectors in relation to child abuse.

Representatives from the Police Force, the health and education sectors, including teachers and heads, and parents are expected to attend the workshop.

At a news briefing at the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Mrs Jadgeo said the various types of child abuse including physical, emotional, psychological and neglect will be addressed in detail at the seminar.

The First Lady who started the `Kids First Fund', noted that the sectors involved in addressing child abuse are not aware of their responsibilities.

The aim of the workshops is to outline how the responsibilities will be shared among the Police, doctors and others and the guidelines they must follow to reduce and eradicate child abuse.

Those who fail to fulfil their duties will be pulled up, Mrs Jagdeo said.

She added that there have been reports of beatings in schools and that children are often abused by family members, strangers and disciplinarians, including teachers.

Noting that there are other ways to discipline a child, the First Lady said there is a lot of stigma surrounding child abuse and that both the victim and the aggressor are becoming younger.

She recalled a British case that attracted international attention involving two boys, ages seven and six, who murdered another child.

Mrs Jagdeo added that the child protection laws need to be amended in order to cover the different cases of child abuse.

Ms Shirley Ferguson, NCROC Coordinator, said the commission feels the issue needs to be discussed at a national level and organisers of the workshop are hoping that systems will be put in place to protect children and ultimately eradicate the problem.

She explained that the NCROC has been around for years as part of the Commission on Survival, Protection and Development of Children and was renamed last year.

Some of its objectives are to promote the United Nations convention on the rights of a child and to work with the ministries and other organisations to ensure they accomplish their goals.

The commission has 18 members - 14 Commissioners and four ex-officio members, Ferguson said.

Ms Ann Greene, Deputy Chief Probation and Family Welfare Officer, said child abuse is an old problem and that her department has been investigating and has recorded all reports it has received.

She noted that child neglect is another form of abuse which is sourced to more females entering the working sector and working long hours, or fathers not taking care of their responsibilities.

Greene maintained that children need both parents and that fathers have to play an equally important role in the development of their children.

Most reports received were linked to child molestation, she told reporters.

Mr Karran Singh, Guyana Water Authority Chief Executive Officer and former head of the United Nations Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) office here, said the media have played an important role in bringing child abuse into the open.

He noted that the problem has been around over the years but due to the media reports a number of important cases have been highlighted.

The seminar will be held in the Savannah Suite of Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown.

Workshops will focus on abuse in the education system; the responsibilities of head teachers and administrators and the Education Ministry; the abused child and the legal system; enforcing children's rights; abuse, detection and recording; counselling; probation and family services; recording abuse and the role of parents, among other topics. (AMANDA WILSON)

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