The Wapishana tribe in Region Nine has embarked on a pilot programme to develop quality bilingual education for primary school students. This programme is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, and the Toshaos of Deep South Rupununi.
The programme will ensure that students with little fluency in English are taught in both their native language and English. According to a GINA release, it is also aimed at preserving the Indigenous culture.
Recently, a team from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, led by Minister Sydney Allicock and the Ministry of Education’s Technical Facilitator, Vincent Alexander, attended the conclusion of an orientation process aimed at determining an innovative way for teaching of language, mathematics and sciences.
Among those who participated in the orientation, which was facilitated by the Jesuits in St. Ignatius, were community members, deputy toshaos, Wapishana language and culture experts, artists and practising school teachers.
During brief remarks, Minister Allicock spoke of the importance of education and the need to ensure that core subjects are taught in both the English and native language (Wapishana).
“You would have heard about the state of our education…last year’s report showed Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine are way below the average, and we want to beat up on our teachers and our children without realising that the curriculum is not set to allow that child to be able to compete with those children on the coast,” Minister Allicock explained.
He pointed out that developers and policy makers must find a way to deliver appropriate education for the people living in the most remote areas in the country, and this bilingual programme is one step towards ensuring a level playing field in this respect.
“I’ve heard policy makers, developers and educators saying that ‘we are going to take education to the Indigenous peoples,’ I would prefer to say that we are going to share education. And our people understand the laws of nature and managing the eco system; they understand the purpose of the worm, the snake, the trees, the fishes…those on the coast can also learn from those Indigenous peoples,” Minister Allicock emphasised.
Iterating that language helps one to have an identity, Minister Allicock noted that language is disappearing among the Indigenous people. He said this programme offers an opportunity for a better curriculum to be developed for all the children in Guyana.
Vincent Alexander, in his remarks, noted that language gives people identity and recognition, and when people have identity and recognition, then there’s currency to deal with others.
According to the GINA report, the bilingual programme will be implemented in stages, and will see a new curriculum being developed to include both languages. The curriculum will also provide a template that will be applicable to other indigenous communities across Guyana.
First-year nursery school teachers are being trained by the end of August this year, and the actual implementation of the new bilingual textbooks for first year nursery school will be incorporated in the September 2017 academic year.
Additionally, materials for secondary year nursery schools will be completed for the 2018 academic year, while 2019-2020 will see this introduced at the Grade 1 level, 2020-2021 Grade 2, and 2021-2022 will cover the Grade 3 level.
It is expected that, throughout the pilot programme, the Ministry of Education and the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) would undertake field reviews and be part of the joint review teams on a regular basis.