Allegation of sexual abuse at West Demerara school
Caesar slams poor communication by regional education department

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
October 22, 2000

The Ministry of Education, currently investigating allegations of the sexual abuse of six male students by a teacher of a West Demerara School, hopes to submit a report and recommendations to the Teaching Service Commission by Wednesday.

Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar, reiterated on Friday that the Ministry of Education would not condone "any element or aspect of child abuse."

Speaking with reporters after a press briefing he hosted at the GTV Studios on Homestretch Avenue, Caesar said that since he learnt of the allegations he has had discussions with the Regional Education Officer for Region Three Yeoman Singh on the matter.

The alleged abuses came to light on Friday, October 6 when one of the six who made the allegations told the teacher that he was fond of oral sex while the teacher was whipping him. Caesar admitted that he only learnt of the allegations when Stabroek News contacted him for a comment on the matter on Thursday.

This newspaper has since learnt that the teacher in question, who had been reporting for duty and functioning in classes since the allegations were made, was not at school on Friday.

Expressing disappointment in the lack of communication on the allegations by the Region Three Education Department, Caesar said that as soon as the matter was brought to his attention he immediately summoned a meeting with the entire staff of the department. He said: "If this has happened so long ago and I am not aware of it and the ministry is not aware of it, then they must account." He added, "I must admit that I got so upset that I had to say to myself 'I am a manager', be careful."

Unfortunately, Caesar said, all the members of the Region Three Education Department except the officer-in-charge were not in office. "They were all out, either working with the Elections Commission, or visiting places in the interior or hinterland."

Caesar said that Singh was able to present a report about the allegations. "The officer did explain poorly what transpired and the difficulties that he had to get information. There has been some degree of slippage in that respect."

However, he added that "we are going to address that, too, because we want to be informed of emergency activities and any activity that smacks of a criminal nature."

Caesar also told reporters that he planned visiting the school himself at the earliest opportunity because "we want to inform the Teaching Service Commission sensibly... no later than Wednesday because we would want action to be taken--if action is necessary--on any issue and all issues relevant...."

Caesar said the ministry expected young people sent to school to feel they were in a protected environment "where teachers more or less oversee their activities, work with them to improve their general behaviour and prepare them for further studies or for the world of work." As such, the ministry was "concerned when allegations are made about teachers' involvement in child abuse and this abuse involves pupils or students from the school."

Caesar said that all education departments, had been "written to and told very clearly in the recent past to report any matter that is of importance, anything that smacks of dishonesty, whatever criminal activity, report it immediately. If the stairway is about to collapse or collapses report that. Even while you take action you must give us information so that we can say to the public what we are doing."

In addition, Caesar said that head teachers "are aware that they must report incidents of [sexual abuse and those of a criminal nature] to the department immediately. Even before they write they must get on the telephone and find a way by fax or what have you while they prepare their report." Head teachers and departments of education know what kinds of action they have to take, he reiterated.

And as a member on the Commission on the Rights of the Child representing the ministry, Caesar related that the regional education departments had been tasked with organising workshops in which the officers will give young people the chance to speak out on what they feel about physical, mental, sexual and all types of abuse. The commission, he said, would want to hear what the young people have to say and what kinds of recommendations they would like to make.

The recommendations will be taken to the November 27, forum organised by the National Commission of the Rights of the Child. The commission, Caesar also emphasised, will "not condone child abuse or child abuse in the schools. We would get involved and cause action to be taken."

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