More resources needed for education – Paramakatoi residents

By Paula Gomes

In wake of the poor results of this year’s National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), residents of the Indigenous community of Paramakatoi in the Potaro-Siparuni District, Region Eight are calling for amendments to be made in the local village education system for more resources. According to residents, there is also need for the threshold for recruitment of teachers to be raised in light of relatively poor performances over the past decades.

The newly constructed primary school at Paramakatoi, Region Eight

Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson, had announced that after years of dismal performances by children in the hinterland regions, there has been a significant boost in the number of students who wrote this year’s National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA).
However, even though Region Eight – more specifically Paramakatoi – (among other hinterland districts), saw an increase in the number of students to pass Maths as opposed to last year, an analysis of statistics over the last 10 years prove that the trend is more fluctuating that consistent. In this accord, between the years 2008-2017, only three persons were able to qualify for the Hinterland Scholarship to senior secondary schools on the coast; one in 2009, 2011 and 2016.
This problem is not limited to the primary level, as CSEC grades virtually suffer year after year, despite being the senior secondary school in the Region.
Head Mistress of Parmakatoi Secondary School, Odessa Paul, spoke with Guyana Times and explained the difficulties which may account for the relatively poor performance of students at the CSEC level. Lack of suitably qualified and trained teachers emerged as a major factor among others, in this regard.
“There is not much motivation for school leaving students in terms of competing for a job or a scholarship. As a result of this students don’t really see the importance of education. There are lots of brilliant students who after completing their secondary education could not attend a tertiary institution due to the financial position of their parents. Residents of P/K are willing to work but due to the lack of job opportunities they are unemployed and unable to support their child/children at a tertiary institution,” Paul lamented.
As regards the issue of the competency of teachers, the head mistress related that the minimum requirements for the appointment of teachers is five CSEC subjects, inclusive of Maths and English A, while explaining that the candidate would be employed as a Temporary Qualified Master/Mistress. Paul added that it is difficult to secure suitably qualified persons to fill these positions due to the challenging terrain, lack of the basic amenities, high cost of living and inadequate incentives – suitably qualified persons are not attracted to the hinterland.
Consequently, there have been instances where persons without the mandatory subjects and possessing low CSEC grades, have assumed the roles of education dispensers, many of whom continue to teach presently while re-sitting CSEC to be able to attend the Cyril Potter’s College of Education.
Even as other teachers seemed reluctant to comment, one teacher related instances where the appointed tutors (not limited to the young and unqualified staff), exercise a high level of incompetence by not implementing effective teaching strategies, rather resorting to reading from the textbooks with little effect.
One parent underscored that most children at both the primary and secondary levels lack the support of parents or motivation in the home.
“Also the teachers’ biased attitude towards students, for instance favouring children from middle class families over those coming from a poor home; the teachers are not trained to cater for the students with different cognitive levels. In addition lack of textbooks and Internet at school, how can they do extra studying?” the parent questioned.
In the last two years however, improvements have been seen in that there were a few passes in the areas of Mathematics as opposed to previous years where no passes were gained; performance level being deemed unacceptable for that of a school with senior regional status.
When questioned just how confident she was in the upcoming CSEC results, the head teacher was enthusiastic and relayed that much can be expected of the secondary school.
“In regards to the upcoming CSEC results, I am confident that our pass rate will be improved. Over the next five years I see Paramakatoi Secondary achieving more than 75 per cent overall passes in all subjects. The staff will be more qualified and equipped the requisite knowledge and skills to facilitate teaching and learning,” she advanced.
However, this objective would only be realised with successful collaborative efforts between parents, teachers, the Education Ministry and the students themselves.
Guyana Times also spoke with several other teachers, parents and students in the community who echoed the concerns raised by the head mistress and proposed suggestions.
“My recommendation to the Ministry of Education in this regard is to have a different rate for teachers’ salary in the hinterland or provide more incentives for the hinterland teachers,” one teacher stated.
It was suggested that students upon leaving school have more access to Government scholarships as their parents may not be able to afford the tuition. In this way more students will be motivated in the journey to secure not only a better life for their families but assist in the development of the community as a whole.
Paramakatoi Secondary – being the highest ranking secondary school in the region – has students who live on the outskirts/annexes and have to travel long distances daily to attend school, as there is only one primary school at the neighbouring farming settlement of Mountain Foot.