Cell phones ban in public schools
Guyana Chronicle
March 10, 2007

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EDUCATION Minister Shaik Baksh yesterday announced that all public schools will be declared ‘No smoking’ zones and students will not be allowed to use cell phones in classrooms with effect from the new school term in April.

At a press conference at the ministry in Georgetown, he said the ministry’s decision to prohibit the use of mobile phones follows reports of students indiscriminately using and answering the instrument while classes are in session, causing disruption.

School administrators and managers will be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring students adhere to the restrictions, he said.

The ‘No Smoking’ rule is in keeping with Guyana’s commitment to uphold the United Nations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) signed at the World Health Assembly in 2003, the Government Information Agency (GINA) said.

A survey conducted by Guyana in 2000 and repeated in 2004, revealed that 32 per cent of students from primary two to four admitted that they were smoking, 35 per cent of children buy cigarettes and 44 per cent smoke at home.

The agency said the ministry’s move to create no smoking zones is meant to protect youths from an addiction that causes billions of deaths annually.

It reported that at the press conference, Mr. Baksh also highlighted plans to ensure tighter security at schools, urging that school administrators play a more essential role in ensuring that students do not attend school with harmful objects.

He referred to recent incidents prominently reported in the media involving armed youths entering the North Georgetown Secondary and St. Gabriel’s Primary schools and assaulting students and teachers.

School administrators and managers need to be stricter in ensuring the safety of the students in classes, Baksh said.

GINA said he pointed out that the ministry has embarked on a programme to train hundreds of school administrators in proper management.

He said teacher absenteeism is contributing to the incidents and most of the cases occur while the teachers are away from classes.

It is not possible for the Ministry of Education to provide each school with a 24-hour security guard, Baksh said, noting that the ministry pays for the security during the day.

GINA said he called on parents, teachers and members of the Guyana Police Force to play a more active role in ensuring that the school environment is secure.

The minister noted that the ministry employed a Chief Security Officer who will join members of the Police Force during their patrols to schools in Georgetown to ensure that schools are safe at night.

Minister within the ministry, Dr. Desrey Fox observed that the obscene language used by parents and elders in the society, violent television shows and the lyrics youths are exposed to contribute to their violent behaviour.

She said that some amount of peer pressure could lead to self defence, creating violent behaviour in classes.

GINA said the ministry has dispatched 21 school welfare officers to supervise the management of schools countrywide and more are expected to be appointed shortly.

This, Baksh said, should assist in the effective management of some schools.