By Isanella Patoir
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday announced it will be working with the Government of Guyana to have strong and capable schools in the bordering regions with Venezuela so that migrant children can have access to a proper education.
The Emergency Officer for UNICEF Guyana, Ian Jones told a gathering at the Marriott Hotel Thursday that they will collaborate with the Ministry of Education and the University of Guyana’s Engineering Department to expand the infrastructure of some of these schools.
Education is one of the basic rights for any child and with continued migration of Venezuelans to Guyana, UNICEF will be working to have every child have access to schooling and education without overwhelming the current schooling capacity in those regions.
He said there are approximately 150 migrant children in Region One going to school, however, “it’s not the case where they can officially be enrolled, but they have been accepted into the schools.”
“In Region One, Whitewater Primary School, which was built for 170 students, they are now up to 240. So this is one of the reasons why we are looking to support the Ministry of Education to build up the resilience of these schools in the border areas,” the Emergency Officer said.
He said UNICEF conducted surveys and outreaches at the weekend to assess the number of Venezuelan migrants as well as their living conditions.
As such, UNICEF plans to work with both migrants and residents to have mutual co-existing environments.
“UNICEF is focusing on the most vulnerable, so we are looking at 12,000 people, including 4,800 children. What we are looking at, are not just the migrants, our caseload includes host communities. We are doing this on a one to one basis, so for every support to a migrant, we are looking to support one person from a host community,” Jones said.
He said the host communities have been most welcoming to the migrants.
UNICEF’S primary focus is to work with migrants in Regions 1, 2, 7 and 9. However they will also focus on Regions 3, 4 and 10 with four key sectors namely, Health and Nutrition; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); Education and Child Protection.
A joint Regional Response Plan with all Venezuela’s bordering countries, Guyana, Trinidad, Brazil, Colombia and Peru, will be developed.
UNICEF will be working to reduce the strain of the migrants on bordering communities with Ministry of Health, Civil Defence Commission, Guyana Water Incorporated, Guyana Red Cross and Ministry of Education along with a Non-Government Organisation – Blossom – to report on violence against women and children.