Truancy campaign launched in other regions
Coordinator condemns poor support from health sector
Stabroek News
December 2, 2001

The Ministry of Education truancy campaign, already underway in Georgetown, has been launched in Region Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Island), Six (East Berbice/Corentyne), Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) and Nine (Upper Essequibo/Upper Takutu).

While the response to the campaign from members of the public has been positive, Coordinator of the Schools Welfare Division in the Education Ministry, Yvonne Arthur, said that the Georgetown Public Hospital has not been as supportive.

At a press conference hosted by Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) in Kingston on Thursday, Arthur said that since the campaign began in Georgetown on October 23, all the regions had been reporting about abused children and children who were not going to school.

During visits to 16 homes and hideouts in one week, she said, social workers, police and members of the City Constabulary who are involved in the campaign encountered children who were not attending school or were of school age but had never attended school. On one day, she said the campaign netted 47 children who were physically and sexually abused. They were removed from their homes and placed in an institutional home. They were medically examined and investigations will continue while legal advice was being sought to see whether parents could be prosecuted or not, she said.

Asked what were some of the constraints facing the campaign Arthur said the main one was the attitude of the staff of the Georgetown Public Hospital when dealing with some of the children who are taken there for medical attention.

She noted that some of the children were sick when they were picked up while some visibly were physically abused. As such they were taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital because it was the only medical facility where medical attention was free. However, those carrying out the campaign were subjected to a lot of embarrassment.

Giving an example, she said that the campaign took five children to the hospital and two doctors admitted them about 8:20 pm. Doing follow-up work the next day, she said, she was told that they had abandoned the children. After making arrangements for the children to be accommodated elsewhere, she said, the hospital would not release the children into her care.

On Wednesday, she said, a social worker took six abused children to be examined and a doctor on duty verbally abused the social worker reducing her to tears.

Stabroek News was unable to get a comment from the Georgetown Hospital on Arthur's claims.

However, Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, feels that the matter could be resolved amicably in the interest of the children and plans to have meetings with the relevant persons.

He said that when other forces attempt to impose more than was catered for on another institution, which already has its plans there would be need for more systematic planning.

Speaking of the campaign, he said that he had received some calls from some of the parents of some of the children who were hauled in during the campaign. Some, he said, could not believe that their children were involved in truancy and other illicit activities.

Acting Chief Education Officer, Genevieve Whyte-Nedd, who was also present at the press briefing cautioned that persons should not get away with the belief that only children of poor parents were truants.

Some affluent parents, she said, were amazed to know that their children were out of school and of the activities they were involved in.

Calling on parents to be more vigilant, she said that the education sector alone could not curb truancy and child abuse.