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|Thanks to gov’t intervention… : Former dropouts now doing exceedingly well at school|
|Written by Clifford Stanley|
|Saturday, 19 January 2013 20:26|
SCORES of school-aged children living along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway, who had dropped out of school for one reason or another, are now happily back in school and doing well, officials of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security (MLHS&SS) have reported.
Their being back at school is due to successful implementation of a Government of Guyana (GOG)/International Labour Organization (ILO) International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) project, which is sponsored by the European Union (EU) with counterpart funding by the GoG.
This programme is known internationally as Tackling Child Labour Through Education (TACKLE), and it aims to prevent and eliminate child labour through education. It is being implemented in one other country in the Caribbean (Jamaica), in eight African countries, and in two South Pacific countries for a total of twelve countries.
In Guyana, the implementing agencies of this ILO-programme are the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security (MLHS&SS). Called the School Retention and Child Labour Prevention Programme (SR&CLPP), it benefits children attending the Dora Secondary School, the Kuru Kuru Primary School, and the Kuru Kuru Nursery class, all located at Kuru Kuru on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway.
Attendees have been benefiting from free transportation to and from school, free meals three days a week, and what has been described as an After-Care Programme (ACP) comprising extra lessons after school, with the school bus either waiting on them until they finish lessons or leaving with others and returning for them. This programme has been ongoing since September 2011.
Ms. Sharon Patterson, ILO’s National Project Officer for the local TACKLE project; and Mrs. Lorene Baird, Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Labour, Human Services & Social Security (MLHS&SS), recently spoke about the project and its successes in getting school drop-outs living along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway to return to school as a way of bettering their lot and protecting them from child labour.
Ms. Baird disclosed that the Government of Guyana signed the Agreement Protocol with the ILO for the start of TACKLE in October 2008, with the overall aim of making a contribution to poverty reduction by providing support to families to ensure that children attend school regularly and punctually.
Although child labourers are targeted in the overall programme, the focus in Guyana has been on prevention of truancy, absenteeism, or any other problem that can precipitate labour activities among children.
Ms Baird said that in considering local targets for the programme, the MLHS&SS recognized that children on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway were experiencing frequent transportation problems in getting to and from school.
Most adversely affected were those attending the Dora Secondary School, the Kuru Kuru Primary School, and the Kuru Kuru Nursery class, all located in the compound of the Kuru Kuru College, two-and-a-half miles inland from the Highway.
This problem, coupled with other issues, prompted the Ministry to request from the ILO help for the children in five areas, namely: Free transportation to and from school; nutritious meals for them three days per week; an After-Care Programme (ACP) to enable them to do extra lessons after school; a psycho-social programme of counselling for behavioural modification; training of their teachers in a special programme of education called Supporting Children’s Rights through Education, Arts and the Media (SCREAM); and counselling for their parents.
The nutritional assistance commenced at the beginning of the programme in 2011, and since then, each child in a total school population of 325 has been provided with a balanced hot meal three days per week.
Through the programme, the schools have consequently benefited from the establishment and improvement of kitchens -- one at each school -- with all the required appliances, crockery and cutlery to make them operational, and with two cooks and three assistants preparing the meals.
Sixteen teachers and two school administrators have received training to better respond to the issues of school dropouts, truancy, and child labour, using SCREAM methodologies, an approach advocated by the ILO to improve the learning environment through art, poetry and drama.
In keeping with the ACP, remedial classes were made available for those students requiring additional support in reading, along with other essential skills in English Language and Mathematics, during the August holidays of 2012.
Moreover, extra afternoon classes were provided to students requiring support for literacy, numeracy and homework. For these lessons, each child has been provided with a snack, and the transportation service is organized so that the buses are available to take the students home after classes.
At another level, parenting workshops were conducted to provide parents/guardians with the necessary skills to effectively parent a child; including, but not limited to, awareness on child abuse, child labour, developing self-efficacy, understanding different personalities in children, and the rights of the child.
The programme hired a facilitator to conduct the workshops, and provided refreshments and coordination services. Children as well as parents were provided with psychosocial support in the form of counselling.
The School Retention and Child Labour Prevention Programme (SR&CLPP) has also supported the collection and duplication of collateral materials for distribution to the target communities, to disseminate information on the prevention of truancy, school drop-out, child labour, the promotion of child rights, and the importance of education.
Community Parent Support groups were established in three communities (Kuru Kuru, Kuru Kururu and Long Creek) to ensure that there is additional support for the reduction of child labour, truancy, school drop-outs and promotion of child rights.
The Parent Support Groups not only include parents of the children of the target schools, but parents with ‘good standing’ in the communities, such as pastors, community leaders, and elders. These groups are expected to preserve and sustain the work that is done by the School Retention and Child Labour Prevention Programme (SR&CLPP) in helping children to remain in school, providing awareness of social issues that slow up the proper growth and development of children, and seeking ways and means to support those children to have a better quality of life.
These groups will continue to receive support from the MLHS&SS in the pursuit of their objectives, Mrs Baird disclosed. She asserted that, according to the records of the schools involved, the SR&CLPP has had significant results.
“Total attendance at all the schools has grown since the project commenced,” she said, adding that the head teacher of the secondary school had reported improvements in CXC results in the 2012 period, and has attributed those favourable results to regular attendance at school and the ACP.
Ms. Sharon Patterson, ILO’s National Project Officer for the local TACKLE project, said the ILO is completely satisfied with the implementation of the programme in Guyana.
“It’s implementation here in Guyana is definitely a role model that can, and will, be replicated in other parts of the world where TACKLE is being implemented,” she said.
The SR&CLPP programme has attracted a cost of US$208,900, and will continue up to the end of the Easter term, by which time the funds would have been exhausted.
Mrs. Baird said that the MLHS&SS has budgeted for this programme to be continued in 2013 for the three schools on the highway.
The programme will continue, once funding is obtained, she said.