Revamping of truancy campaign likely after CoI

By Merissa Wilson

As truancy remains obstinate in Guyana, the Education Ministry has disclosed its plan to have a broad-based approach taken to curb the prevalence after the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the education sector.

Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine
Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine

This is according to Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine who affirmed that the Ministry is currently looking at strategic measures to address the escalating issue.
However, Roopnaraine remarked that the Ministry does not want to deal with the situation in isolation, since the input of the public is crucial.
Noting this, he said that during the CoI, an investigation will be launched into the current state of truancy in Guyana.
“We want to have teachers and parents be a part of the investigation so we will be consulting with them on the issue. From this, proposals can be made on how to approach the problem,” the minister informed.
This, he said, will ensure that the persons have an equal opportunity to make their suggestions and play a role in the solution.
With the CoI into the education sector still ongoing, it is likely that truancy will be addressed subsequent to the completion of this inquiry when a plausible solution is reached.
The CoI is said to be a comprehensive assessment of the current state of the education sector. Through the findings, the Ministry will then be able to implement its plans for the advancement of education delivery in Guyana.
Truancy campaigns had been initiated under the previous Administration and had since been dubbed a success. During these campaigns, welfare officers would spontaneously swoop down on the areas that are prone to the problem. This initiative had been given the thumbs up in recent years.
Meanwhile, truancy remains an evident problem in the capital city since stops at various points across the city on Tuesday highlighted the severity of the problem, as children and young adults could be seen aimlessly traversing the streets or idly loitering in their communities.
When Guyana Times visited the Sophia, Greater Georgetown area, there was the unpleasant sight of seeing more than 20 children clad in “house clothes”, running errands, playing games or walking aimlessly, even though a nursery and primary schools are located just a short walking distance away.
The area is described as ‘poverty struck’ and according to many residents, most might not be able to send their school aged children to school as a result of unfortunate financial circumstances. The question left unanswered though is whether or not the Ministry is aware of their plight.
Guyana Times spoke with an eight-year-old student who was walking the road in his home clothes. He told this publication that he attends the Sophia Primary School and ironically related that his house was just opposite his school but it was an institution that he hardly attended.
Explaining the reasons for his absence, the boy told this publication that his mother leaves for work early in the morning and there is usually no other adult to overlook his two-year-old brother.
A neighbour of the child also relayed that it was usual for the child to be kept away from school to look after his younger sibling as his mother is a single parent and works excessive hours to make ends meet.
This publication also came across a mother of three who admitted to keeping her children away from school as a result of financial strain she faces daily to make ends meet.
Though both she and her reputed husband have a steady job, the woman explained that because of the economic situation in the country, it is a “daily burden” to send her children to school.
“It is a very hard to provide for three children in this country because you have to get school clothes, lunch money or meals, books, footwear and they have to get a little pocket money. I don’t want to keep them from an education but it’s not like I have a choice,” she related.
Other youngsters informed that it was their personal choice to stay away from school since they are trying to be make their “own money.”
Another stop in West La Penitence and Laing Avenue revealed the same problem being prevalent, though not to the extent of the Sophia area.