Baksh outlines initiatives to cope with education challenges
Guyana Chronicle
January 26, 2007

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MINISTER of Education, Mr. Shaik Baksh yesterday outlined several initiatives which the government has taken to make sure children remain in school.

Speaking at the launch of the EDUCARE scheme to combat child labour, he acknowledged that, although Guyana has satisfied the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal access to primary education long before the stipulated 2015 deadline, there are still problems in the sector.

“The greatest challenge facing the education sector is to ensure that students complete the primary cycle as well as secondary,” Baksh said.

He said only 48 per cent of 73 per cent of children who attend secondary school complete their education there.

“We have a problem on our hand,” he admitted but said the ministry has a response and it must be addressed to avoid social ills such as child labour.

Baksh said government reaction includes creating a supportive learning environment by constructing more school buldings, installing library facilities and training more teachers.

However, he agreed there is need for parents and the communities to get involved.

Baksh announced that the Education Ministry has employed a large number of school welfare officers and 20 of them will be deployed to the various administrative regions shortly to deal with truancy.

He said the ministry also has a school feeding scheme to which children have responded positively.

“We see a direct linkage between the programme and their attendance in school,” the minister said.

Baksh said the government has also invested in alternative programmes such as ‘Skills for Life’, which has the pilot at Beterverwagting Primary School, East Coast Demerara, and the Basic Competency Certificate Programme (BCCP) in ten schools across the country.

The ministry is looking, as well, to establish remedial education centres in all the regions and the hope is that students who have difficulty coping with the school curriculum can be given additional lessons during the August holidays, he said.

“I am hoping that, in doing so, we can reduce the number of dropouts,” Baksh explained, as he called for better classroom management, especially in the way discipline is administered.

He noted, too, that the way discipline is administered can be a deterrent and said it will be discussed at a meeting of headteachers in the Georgetown Education District today, at Queen’s College at Camp and Thomas Roads.

U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. David Robinson posited that education is the vitality of a nation and the lack of it destroys a country.

He said his government is making an investment in Guyana and expects results from it.

“Every dollar we spend to keep a kid in school is a smart, smart move,” the diplomat pointed out. (SHAWNEL CUDJOE)