New system for school uniform assistance -Shadick
Stabroek News
January 30, 2004

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Human Services Minister Bibi Shadick yesterday announced that a new method of determining which needy children get uniform assistance will be put in place this year.

The Minister within the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security mentioned her plan to address the issue of the distribution of school uniforms at a press conference yesterday. She said that this year the ministry would ask the Ministry of Education to list the names of all schools. They would then ask the schools to identify around ten students who they believe are eligible for school uniforms. The ministry would then generate its list from that sent by the schools and have this validated by regional officers. She noted that by June they should have a list of schools to work with from the Ministry of Education. Shadick warned however that the distribution of uniforms depended on the availability of funds.

Last year the ministry had faced much criticism about its approach to school uniforms. At that time the minister had said that uniforms would be distributed in each region and in Georgetown each area was handled by different persons.

However problems surfaced in West Berbice when Edwin Joseph, Chairman of the Naarstigheid/Union Neighbourhood Democratic Council complained that it had sent a list of names to the Regional Democratic Council as requested but that those names were ignored. Added to this some residents of Sophia had also complained that they had not received uniforms.

As part of her job the Minister was required to sit before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to answer questions on Guyana's country report. She related that the United Nations Committee was satisfied with the quality of the report presented. It had however expressed concerns about corporal punishment, the plight of Amerindian children and disabled children and their access to buildings in Guyana. Recommendations and suggestions from this body will be noted and given careful consideration, the minister said.

She noted that the Co-operatives Department was understaffed and had employed four new staff members. Shadick said the ministry had found that groups were applying for registration as Friendly Societies for less than honest reasons. The ministry would therefore be looking at making some amendments to the Friendly Societies Act.

With regard to Pension Books, Shadick said she knew that pensioners were having some difficulty so as a result all pension books will be written up in the ministry. Pensioners will then spend less time at the distribution centres, and this should be done by March.

In the Probation Department the minister said that though they had several vacancies last year this year was much better. The minister noted that visiting committees had gone to several orphanages and had singled out some issues of importance including the absence of fire-fighting equipment.

Shadick told reporters that the Night Shelter continued to do a good job. The social workers there were able to encourage 19 people to return to their homes. She noted that the bus would pick people up and take them to the shelter where they are offered a hot dinner and breakfast. She mentioned also that the rules of the shelter had to be enforced since some people were leaving their belongings behind, under the impression that they can remain there for an extended period.