Disturbing tidings about truant schoolchildren
Guyana Chronicle
November 27, 2001

TO ALL but cynical and world-weary minds, the ‘Sunday Chronicle’ exposé [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] of some of the sexual practices of truant schoolchildren, must be deeply disturbing. The revelations came during a campaign against school truancy launched in October by the Schools Welfare Services of the Ministry of Education.

The initial purpose of the campaign was to locate those primary and secondary schoolchildren, who usually wander around City shops and markets during the hours when classes are in session. Several youngsters wearing school uniforms were rounded up and warned against this practice.

As the campaign developed, social workers were given information about young children, who were regularly left on their own without a responsible adult to care for them. Some of these young children were taken into the care of the authorities, and in cases where errant parents were found they were invited into custody for questioning by law-enforcing personnel.

According to the ‘Chronicle’ report, by the second week of the campaign, the officials observed a worrying trend. That was the “alarming frequency with which girls in particular have been engaged in sexual activities while their parents believed they were in school”. The story continued: “Investigations reveal that a large percentage of these teenagers leave home under the pretext of going to school in the mornings but never show up there. Some were said to have been found bus-riding or engaging in promiscuous behaviour with male partners in the Promenade Gardens and behind the seawall in Georgetown during low tide hours.

“Some between the ages of 13 and 16 have been found locked in buildings with males, and others still said to be visiting hotels during school hours with celebrities ‘who should know better’, according to one official…At least eight were picked up in the Promenade Gardens and 15 found loitering in the Stabroek Market, claiming they were going to ‘Uncle’; others were in the company of known lesbians and others still were found shoplifting and generally wandering. A good many were taken off minibuses while school was in session and even late at nights. And with the help of the Police, who are also involved in the campaign, many conductors of minibuses on which the girls have been found have been arrested and charged.”

This situation is a most distressing development, and a very sad commentary on the state of Guyanese society today. Those citizens old enough to remember the values fostered by the past generation must shake their heads in sorrow at learning of these negative tidings, which threaten to destroy a swathe of the youthful population.

They must express regret over the disappearance of the extended family and the mind-your-own business attitude of community members. They have to mourn the circumstances that compel a single female head of household to spend 15 hours away from home to earn much-needed cash while leaving her children to prepare themselves for school.

Further, they would cry ‘Shame!’ at those irresponsible men for whom the impregnation of women is a symbol of virile manhood and not a call for the moral responsibility of parenting.

The older folk will bemoan the designer-tag culture that ignites in teenagers a compelling desire for expensive footwear; the minibus phenomenon under which adolescent girls engage in inappropriate sexual behaviour with adult men; and the rebellious attitude of young girls who stupidly refuse to take advantage of the opportunity they have to gain an education, which will determine their intellectual and career development in later life.

As long as the underlying socio-economic conditions remain un-addressed and unchanged, it would be impossible to propose a course of rehabilitation for these errant teens. One could only hope that they themselves would pause a while and listen to the appeals of well-meaning persons, and try to turn their lives around.