British volunteers for teaching stint here by Abigail Butler
Guyana Chronicle
September 5, 2002

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EDUCATION Minister, Dr. Henry Jeffrey and Permanent Secretary, Mr. Hydar Ally, yesterday met volunteers from the United Kingdom who will be teaching at several secondary schools around the country over a one-year period.

The young 'Project Trust' volunteers were invited by the Education Ministry and Jeffrey explained that this is not the first time the organisation has sent representatives here on teaching stints but has done so for many years.

He said that previously the teachers were simply sent to the schools without being introduced to the public.

Of the 16 volunteers, 10 are males. One of the teachers, Ms. Rebecca Duxbury, who started teaching at the Covent Garden Secondary School, East Bank Demerara, has found the experience pleasing so far.

She said the students and other teachers are very friendly and cooperative.

She explained that they are targetted by the organisation while in school and given the opportunity to make applications for the volunteer stints. Upon acceptance, they are given the relevant training and are sent to different parts of the world.

Two teachers will be at each of eight schools, Friendship Community High, Covent Garden Secondary and Bladen Hall Multilateral, in Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica); St. Ignatius and Annai Secondary, in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo); Port Kaituma and Santa Rosa Secondary, in Region One (Barima/Waini), and Paramakatoi Secondary in Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni), where they will teach Mathematics and Science subjects.

Jeffrey noted that the volunteers are much needed, given the exodus of teachers from the country.

Guyanese teachers have been recruited for jobs in North America and other countries and this has put a strain on the sector.

Huge financial resources are expended by the national economy to train teachers here who leave shortly after to earn more in the developed countries.

The education sector received 20% of the last budget but it is obviously not enough to deal with the dilemma.

The officials met the volunteer group at the Georgetown Club where the Education Minister was able to chat with and answer questions the teachers might have.

They were advised to be careful of the malaria problem in the interior as well as the AIDS situation affecting the nation.

Bringing them up to date with some of what is taking place in the school system here, Jeffrey said the ministry is trying to introduce participation and participatory mechanisms in schools.

He said they are also trying to get the schools to do development or school improvement plans to set some long-term goals for themselves within the context of the strategic plan the ministry has developed.

He noted that the subject areas which they will be teaching are problematic, not only because many such teachers are not produced here but that many of those qualified in these fields leave.

"There is not much we can do about that. Guyana is perhaps one of the poorest countries around these parts and people are even leaving from the richer countries where they are paid salaries four times what we are paying," he stated.

He added that the Government tries to improve in some areas in the context of its resources but there is a limit to what can be done with the kind of resources available.

"...therefore you are here to try in some way to fill that gap and I know you are young and enthusiastic to go out there," he said.

Many of the volunteers said they are looking forward to working here for the next year and one told the Chronicle that this year's teaching might determine whether she will make it her profession.