$32.9M project to put dropouts back in school
By Shawnel Cudjoe
Guyana Chronicle
January 26, 2007

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NINE Teenage Re-Engagement Programmes (TREP) and School Attendance Programmes (SAP) will be launched here shortly, in the Partners of the Americas EDUCARE Guyana plan to combat child labour.

The $32.9M project, with $22.8M being provided by the United States Department of Labour International Child Labour Programme that funds EDUCARE Guyana, was officially launched at Cara Lodge, in Quamina Street, Georgetown, yesterday.

It will be executed in Regions Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands), Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) and 10 (Upper Demerara/Berbice) over a nine months period, Executive Director of EDUCARE Guyana, Mr. Ed Denham said.

The aim is to get school-age children back into the system.

EDUCARE Guyana has joined forces with eight local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for the TREP/SAP processes which target 766 school-age children.

Denham said EDUCARE teamed up with the NGOs to undertake skills training to ensure that, when those teenagers enter the world of work, they are equipped.

Working in partnership with EDUCARE on the TREP, are Denise Catering Institute in Region 10, which will be conducting courses also in agriculture and business entrepreneurship for 25 young school dropouts.

This will be supplemented with literacy, numeracy and information technology (IT) programmes while the Adult Education Association (AEA) in Berbice will be recruiting 75 young persons from New Amsterdam and Canje areas who have dropped out of secondary school and are engaged in various forms of child labour.

They will be provided with various skills, among them welding, masonry, woodworking and garments manufacturing.

Under the TREP, Sunshine Women and Youth Group will be teaching sewing and catering to 25 female dropouts, from between Leonora, West Coast Demerara and Parika, East Bank Essequibo.

AEA Bartica will facilitate similar training in catering, craft and tailoring for 20 young girls.

Zeelugt Primary School, which is working with EDUCARE on the SAP, will be feeding 150 students every day and providing them with three to four hours of remedial literacy and numeracy lessons each week while they benefit from vouchers for uniform supplies.

The Sunshine Women and Youth Group will be offering meals to 250 pupils of three primary schools, Parika/Salem, Greenwich Park and Philadelphia, all on East Bank Essequbo and the pupils would get uniforms, too.

St Anthony Primary and Fort Ordinance Primary in Berbice and Vreed-en-Hoop Seventh-Day Adventist Church will feed a total of 180 persons and Zeelugt Primary, Fort Ordinance Primary and St Anthony Primary are to get computers valued $660,000 to help them track children for IT classes based on remedial literacy support.

EDUCARE is charged with combating child labour through education and the focus of its resources is on those issues of child labour that come under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 on the World Forms of Child Labour.

They include slavery, sale of children, trafficking them, debt bondage, forced or compulsory labour, commercial sex exploitation, prostitution, pornography and criminal activities, like drug trafficking, robbery, harmful work which endangers the health, safety and morals of children under 18 years old.

Full time work at an early age, excessive working hours, exposure to hazards and psychological, verbal, physical and sexual abuse are also cited.

The ILO decrees that children should not work more than three hours a day and it is against the law in Guyana for a person under 18 years old to be a conductor on a mini-bus.

Children also risk injury, illness or even death from biological hazards associated with farm and wild animals, reptiles, insects and certain plants but the worst forms of child labour in this country are trafficking, prostitution, vending, begging, logging, mining, sawmilling, fishing and conducting mini-buses.

Denham said, at the launch: “We do not want children engaged in slavery and bondage…we do not want children engaged in prostitution.”

He said EDUCARE is not in Guyana to ensure that children cease working altogether but pointed out that there must be boundaries.

“Work can be part and parcel of the solid upbringing of the child but it has to be within perimeters,” Denham maintained.

Children should not lose out on education or be endangered because of work, he posited.

Denham reported that a survey by EDUCARE, in which more than 8,000 Guyanese children were interviewed, revealed that the main reason they became dropouts is because they were disinterested in the curriculum.

“They are not excited to engage what is on offer,” he said.

According to Denham, many of them also left school when they recognised they were not among the “cream of the crop.”

“They sensed that if they could not get CXC, then the horizon disappears” and they preferred to leave, he observed.

Denham recommended that the matter be addressed by the school system which has to be inclusive and attempts to draw in everybody.