Ensuring a fundamental human right Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
April 19, 2002

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POVERTY has always been a major factor preventing innocent and in many cases extremely talented children from receiving or furthering their education.

This has had a multiplying effect on poverty because without a good education the chances of obtaining good jobs are almost nil. Consequently, some youths can get only lowly paid jobs or remain unemployed thus ending up deeper in the poverty barrel.

In their hunt for survival they sometimes find themselves on the wrong path in life, thereby destroying their future and increasing the social problems in society.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) estimates, between 900 million and one billion adults in the world are illiterate. Of course poverty has contributed in large measure to this.

In the context of today's world, being without an education is almost tantamount to being an invalid.

A recent education conference in Egypt sponsored by the G-8 countries had this to say: "Education is a fundamental human right. Like good health, it is central to individual self-realisation. It is a powerful instrument for building dynamic economies. It is a bedrock of democratic societies. And it can be the foundation for building a world where values of openness, understanding and respect for others triumph over those which promote exclusion, mistrust and resentment."

In Guyana one of the central issues to be tackled under the five-year strategic plan on education is the improvement of the quality of education in the hinterland regions.

In this respect it was indeed pleasing to hear Education Minister, Dr. Henry Jeffrey announce at a recent news conference that a poverty alleviation package for students is part of this year's education programme.

The ministry will be involved in poverty alleviation in an effort to supplement the nutritional needs of more than 40,000 students at nursery and primary schools, so making them better able to attend to their lessons.

The minister noted that partially as a result of the anti-truancy campaign it was found that many children had not been going to school because of hunger and current resources are inadequate to cover the entire population of nursery and primary students.

In order to deal more comprehensively with the problem and utilise resources more rationally, the Government has decided to increase its allocation from $75M to $156.6M this year for the purchase of milk and biscuits to cover students in primary and nursery schools in regions considered the poorest parts of Guyana.

In addition, head teachers of nursery and primary schools in six regions will be required to identify specific students who are at risk and request the necessary supplies. The ministry estimates that this will be about 15% of the school population of those regions.

Grants for uniforms have also been increased from $10M to $31M this year, to provide school uniforms for children from the poorer sections of society.

Of course this will not resolve all the educational problems facing the poorer sections of the society, but it is a step in the right direction and shows that those in authority are concerned about the plight of the more needy sections of society.

Most solutions to problems are born out of a genuine concern by people and in this instance this has been demonstrated.