Reaching out to the grassroots
Guyana Chronicle
August 7, 2004

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THOSE who have so often been trenchant in their criticism of the state of the education sector in this country now have an opportunity, if they are so inclined, to make suggestions for meaningful change.

It comes through the establishment of an 11-member task group by the Ministry of Education to draw up a new Education Act and the team has assured that the draft bill would be ready for presentation to the National Assembly next year.

According to Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, the current act is decades old and in need of significant restructuring.

The group is to put its ideas on the act to the general public, the Education Ministry and all other relevant stakeholders, he told reporters Thursday.

While the minister has given some general pointers to the team, those who have wrung their hands in despair over perceived failings and shortcomings in the sector, can now table their recommendations for improvement to the group.

"We want strong school boards; we want participation at the grassroots level so that there can be a delivery of quality education", Dr. Jeffrey stressed as the team got down to work Thursday.

Seeking grassroots involvement through establishing school boards is a move in the right direction and this is a perfect opening for those so concerned about getting education on the right track to also become involved.

The challenge has been thrown out and those who genuinely are concerned about moving the sector forward should come out and let their voices and views be heard.

Letters to the press and viewpoints on radio and television often serve to highlight issues of concern to society and can jolt those responsible for lapses into action.

But more meaningful and lasting changes can be wrought through community involvement and the active participation of stakeholders in school boards and other avenues.

Parent/teachers and old students associations have long been valuable support tools for improving schools and ensuring better standards for students.

The fast changing world, however, demands keeping in step with innovations and the task group will need all the help it can get if its mission is to be fully accomplished.

The groupís membership reflects representation from key stakeholders -the University of Guyana, the Public Service Ministry, the Guyana Teachers Union and the Teaching Service Commission Ė and reaching out to the grassroots will broaden its scope.

It should make every effort to get the critics and community leaders on board because what is involved is the vitally important task of preparing children for life.

Education has to be in step to help students and teachers meet the challenges of the times and the group has been handed a huge responsibility.

It has to ensure that the new rules cover all the critical areas and that the act is in tune with the requirements of the day.

Itís a tall order but the challenge can be met if there is broad involvement at the grassroots and other levels.