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The committee, inaugurated yesterday, is to work in close collaboration with the ministry with a view to safeguarding the children at those facilities.
The 19-member Committee of Volunteers, which will operate between Georgetown and Berbice, was installed yesterday by Minister within the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Ms. Bibi Shadick, in the ministry boardroom during a meeting attended also by the administrators of the various homes and orphanages.
In her remarks to the incumbents shortly before the installation, Minister Shadick stressed that the role of the committee will be to ‘visit and observe’, then report their observations and recommendations to the Probation and Family Welfare Department of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security.
The minister made it clear to the volunteers who constitute the committee is tasked with aiding in the correction of what is ‘not right’ in terms of discipline, nutrition, education, medical attention and recreation.
Cautioning them against raising objections, questions, or making suggestions to the administrators/directors of the centers about the functioning of the facilities, the minister reiterated: “The role of the committee is not to function as a private investigator or secret police. Your function will be to “observe and report to us.”
Of great importance, she said, is the welfare of the children, consistent with the Convention of the Rights of the Child (ROC).
The ministry considered implementing these monitoring arrangements in order to prevent unfortunate developments such as the deaths of three young children at such facilities on two separate occasions in the recent past.
A few months ago a male child died under mysterious circumstances at an orphanage, and just a fortnight ago two girls - aged nine and ten - died by drowning while on their way to school.
Deputy Chief Probation and Family Welfare Officer, Mrs. Patricia Gray, said it is hoped that with this kind of surveillance in place, there would not be a recurrence of such tragic events.
The committee, which will meet quarterly, will prepare reports which will be carefully perused before being submitted to the ministry. The volunteers are to be given guidelines, based on the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Minister Shadick said that even though the ministry provides an annual subvention to these institutions, which are registered under the Friendly Societies’ Act, adequate monitoring of their activities is difficult.