Sig­nif­i­cant In­creases in School Dropouts in Amerindian Com­mu­ni­ties

Weekend Mirror - - EDITORIAL - By Alis­ter Char­lie PPP/C MP

AMin­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion report of Novem­ber 6, 2008 re­vealed that, up to 2007, 13,844 stu­dents had dropped out of the pri­mary school sys­tem, rep­re­sent­ing 4% of the na­tional pop­u­la­tion. The report con­tin­ued: “… ac­cord­ing to Eve­lyn Hamil­ton, Chief Plan­ning Of­fi­cer of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, the sit­u­a­tion is much worse, par­tic­u­larly in pri­mary and sec­ondary schools in hin­ter­land ar­eas like Re­gion 1 and Re­gion 9, where rates are more than tripled.”

How­ever, the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion had sig­nif­i­cantly low­ered those fig­ures when the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, in March 28, 2014, re­ported that school dropouts had sig­nif­i­cantly de­creased through the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Guyana Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion Im­prove­ment Project, the ob­jec­tive of which was to in­crease the num­ber of stu­dents with ac­cess to sec­ondary school math­e­mat­ics teach­ers, who were ben­e­fit­ing from con­tin­u­ous pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment na­tion­wide. This project was one of sev­eral pro­jected to in­crease the num­ber of stu­dents in sec­ondary schools with im­proved learn­ing con­di­tions in tar­geted re­gions.

By the time the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion had demit­ted of­fice in 2015, Guyana had achieved the United Na­tions Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goal in Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion and was well on the way to achiev­ing the UNMDG in sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. This fact was un­der­scored by im­pact­ful ex­am­i­na­tion results in ev­ery re­gion and, be­cause of the req­ui­site fa­cil­i­ta­tion to ed­u­ca­tional re­sources, Amerindian stu­dents emerged shining stars in the fir­ma­ment of Guyanese schol­ars. Sadly, of re­cent times, there has been a re­ver­sal of the prior ed­u­ca­tional trends in Hin­ter­land com­mu­ni­ties; for sev­eral rea­sons, but mainly due to so­cio-eco­nomic dys­func­tions within Amerindian com­mu­ni­ties.

As ob­tained in times gone past, re­lated by one Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cial in 2008, the cur­rent re­ver­sal now trending has been pre­cip­i­tated by learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, emo­tional prob­lems, early adult re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and par­ent­hood; which are the ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tors to chil­dren drop­ping out of schools of re­cent times, merely within a two-year span.

Ad­di­tion­ally, fac­tored into this equa­tion, is poor at­ten­dance, low ed­u­ca­tion ex­pec­ta­tions, low so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus, poor ed­u­ca­tion of par­ents, large num­ber of sib­lings and not liv­ing with nat­u­ral par­ents. The lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties for aca­demic success also in­hibits higher ed­u­ca­tion ac­ces­si­bil­ity, ex­ac­er­bated by con­strained ac­cess to re­sources in schools as well as high pupil/teacher ra­tios in­stead of full com­ple­ments of trained teach­ers con­tribut­ing to the drop-out rates.

The im­pli­ca­tions and con­se­quences of chil­dren drop­ping out of school will con­trib­ute to un­em­ploy­ment, a life of poverty and all its re­lated so­cial ills, which will evolve in a vi­cious cy­cle of less than healthy life­styles for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Ad­di­tional con­se­quences are pur­suit of a life of crime and even­tual im­pris­on­ment, leav­ing wives and off­spring with­out pro­tec­tion and re­sources for sur­vival.

Ac­cord­ing to the MOE of­fi­cial in 2008, “Drop­ping out of school also re­duces the pos­si­bil­ity of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in so­ci­ety as a whole be­cause ed­u­ca­tion is crit­i­cal to im­prov­ing health, nu­tri­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

As we cel­e­brate both Amerindian Her­itage and Ed­u­ca­tion Month, we must take cog­nizance of the in­crease in school dropouts in our Amerindian com­mu­ni­ties and its re­lated ills. It is dev­as­tat­ing and greatly dis­tress­ing to see the re­ver­sal of over two decades of in­creased school at­ten­dance and the em­pha­sis placed on Ed­u­ca­tion at the vil­lage level by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Dur­ing that pe­riod, ac­cess to school sys­tems and ed­u­ca­tional dy­nam­ics in hin­ter­land com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try had been tremen­dously im­proved, with our chil­dren be­ing af­forded greatly-en­hanced op­por­tu­ni­ties in up­grad­ing our stan­dards in life through ed­u­ca­tion.

In­deed, many of our chil­dren have re­turned with their aca­demic suc­cesses in the var­i­ous pro­fes­sions to serve their own com­mu­ni­ties in hin­ter­land re­gions.

For our Na­tion to re­turn to an up­ward growth pat­tern, it is vi­tal that all our chil­dren, es­pe­cially those in the hin­ter­land re­gions be given the op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­sources to learn and be able to de­velop their own com­mu­ni­ties through the req­ui­site eco­nomic and ex­tended sup­port to sus­tain and im­prove aca­demic out­put.

Nam­ing Lethem and Mabaruma a town, for ex­am­ple, re­quires more than just that; but it must be ac­com- panied with ed­u­ca­tional and eco­nomic pil­lars that will see our hin­ter­land com­mu­ni­ties, and es­pe­cially our young peo­ple – the lead­ers of the fu­ture, be pro­vided the req­ui­site sup­port – at ev­ery level, to achieve their op­ti­mum po­ten­tial for per­sonal growth to de­velop them­selves and to sub­se­quently con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of their com­mu­ni­ties and, ul­ti­mately, their coun­try.

It is im­por­tant that the gov­ern­ment of the day rec­og­nizes the im­per­a­tive of govern­ing for all the peo­ple of the land with eq­uity and with­out favour­ing one com­mu­nity over the other. The Amerindian chil­dren of this na­tion should not be short-changed be­cause of any prej­u­di­cial con­sid­er­a­tion and should all be treated equally.

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