Bisnauth urges stricter rule by school heads
Gajraj says parents liable for prosecution

By Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
April 10, 2000

Following the detention of 53 schoolchildren at nintendo clubs, Minister of Education, Dr Dale Bisnauth says that letters would be sent to heads of schools urging them to be firmer in the management of students.

And Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, has warned that parents would be prosecuted for not ensuring that their children are in school.

The police had held 53 schoolchildren who were found playing nintendo games at several clubs around Georgetown on March 10 and 31, when they should have been in school.

A press release from the Guyana Police Force said the Police Juvenile Branch in order to deal with truancy and juvenile delinquency, conducted raids of five nintendo game clubs around Georgetown. A total of 53 children from secondary and primary schools and one who did not attend school, were found playing games during school hours.

Gajraj, in an invited comment, said this would be an ongoing exercise by the police. He said too that nintendo clubs should be operating within the rules and regulations of their licences.

Stabroek News visited the Game City nintendo club at the Kwality Centre mini mall on Regent Street and saw two children of school age inside although there was a notice on the door which said schoolchildren were not allowed in during school hours. One of the children about ten years old was playing, while the other, in uniform, was looking on. The operator, when asked by this newspaper if the licence to operate stipulated specific hours during which children of school age should not play, replied "no."

Gajraj said parents would be prosecuted for not sending their children to school if there was evidence to prove that they were responsible for them not being in school.

Dr Bisnauth, also in an invited comment, said his ministry viewed the recent incidents with grave concern. The minister said letters would be sent to the heads of schools urging them to be more strict in the management of students. He said if children who should be in school were not, an explanation should come from their parents about their absence. According to him, if a child went to school in the morning session and was not there for the afternoon session, the teacher must demand an explanation and the parents should be notified.

The minister said he was having discussions with the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security with the aim of recreating the social services link to schools. He said that years ago there used to be truant officers to deal with children who skip school.

The law enforcement officers are urging nintendo clubs not to encourage or allow schoolchildren access to the clubs when they should be in school. Costs for playing the nintendo games range from $30 for a ten-minute game to $300 for an hour.

Stabroek News spoke with a few nintendo club owners who claimed that they did not allow schoolchildren to play during school hours. The owners said they were fooled about the ages of some secondary school students, since many of them looked much older and were not in uniform. One secondary student told this newspaper that they would walk with extra shirts to change into before going into the clubs.

A visit to some small shops revealed a number of children of school age playing the games. Most claimed they were street children and did not go to school. Some claimed they did not have parents or they did not live with them.