Grasping those learning opportunities

Guyana Chronicle
September 3, 2001

TODAY, thousands of children will enter school buildings to begin the new academic year. Dressed in their new uniforms and armed with a range of textbooks, pens, pencils, exercise books and geometry sets, the school population will be herded into their new classrooms, where they will be introduced to their new teachers, who will tell them what is expected of them for this stage of their education.

Along with being involved in the beginning-of-the-new-term excitements, it is hoped that the nationís schoolchildren will be so impressed with the brilliant results of this yearís SSEE and CXC tests that they will vow to do their very best at their lessons in order to emulate their peers.

The standard of education, which became one of the casualties of the punishing social and economic times of 1980s Guyana, is still not as good as it should be at this juncture of the new century.

True, there have been dazzling results attained by students in recent times. But, in most of these cases, the students were carefully nurtured by the home environment and afforded first-class teaching at the best learning institutions. Guyana is yet to see very good results being demonstrated by thousands of children in the hundreds of schools across the land.

Soon after the PPP/Civic came to office, a massive programme to build new schools and refurbish dilapidated ones was launched. The result of this scheme is a pleasing landscape of spanking new buildings equipped with running water, adequate classrooms, school libraries and designated areas for technical instruction. Those classes, which for years had to be cooped up in bottom-houses or in run-down and leaky community centres, are now held in neat and functional buildings, where the environment is definitely more conducive to teaching and learning than what obtained before.

This is not to say that learning, like writing or any other creative process, cannot take place in makeshift classrooms; for many a scholar who achieved acclaim and made meaningful contributions to their native land and beyond, did not have many of the amenities taken for granted in todayís world.

Numerous teacher-training schemes have been implemented, resulting in a faculty of persons who are better qualified to impart knowledge to the nationís youths.

Textbooks for students at the primary and secondary levels are widely available in the countryís bookstores. This again, is a great improvement on those times, when poor harried parents were forced to implore friends and relatives to purchase and send certain books so that their children could keep up with school lessons.

President Bharrat Jagdeo has imposed on himself, the mission of implementing information technology software in every possible learning centre so that the nationís children could become computer literate and be on par with their counterparts in the rest of the developed world.

With this regimen of improvement in the education system, Guyanaís schoolchildren will soon have no excuse for not becoming proficient at the traditional Three Rís and other subjects. Parents, the extended family, teachers and the community will have to make it their duty to encourage and persuade those rebellious and distracted schoolchildren to grasp with both hands the opportunity they have now to obtain primary and secondary education, which is free of cost in schools operated by the state.

There are just too many stories of teenagers being more interested in their expensive designer boots than in their lessons and assignments. Other youths, especially those of female-headed households, take advantage of their mothersí long hours of work, to ignore their books, and instead, become involved in all manner of negative behaviours. In other cases, children with a genuine desire to acquire knowledge are the unfortunate victims of dysfunctional homes where intellectual exercise is discouraged and reviled.