Manickchand seeking religious leaders, influencers to mentor school children


Education Minister Priya Manickchand will this week meet with religious leaders, such as pastors and other influential speakers, where she will seek to secure their commitment to go into schools and provide mentorship to students.

This action is seen as a response to recent reports of violence and other unacceptable behaviour by students in schools across the country.

Manickchand on Monday participated in a virtual discussion on the modernisation and improvement of Guyana’s education system.

During the discussion, the minister was asked to comment on the increase in gang violence, bullyism and other crimes in schools and to articulate the government’s plan to deal with these problems.

“I’m speaking to some pastors later this week, to be able to go into schools and do some consistent [work] not just a check and talk on morals but to be almost a mentor to schools,” Manickchand said.

The subject minister also explained that violence has always been present in schools, however, she reasoned that with more advanced technology available the situations are now more publicized; she said the Education Ministry will not turn a blind eye and operate like it is not happening.

“First of all, I don’t think it’s something we should pretend is non-existent. Secondly, I don’t think it’s something we should become paralysed in fear about. So, getting the police involved, getting welfare involved, there are other people who could possibly influence the young people we’re talking about,” Manickchand said.

She also pointed out that students who are exhibiting bad behaviour are coming from broken homes and noted the ministry will work with these families.

Manickchand added that these homes often have a single mother and opined that the pastors can now step up and play the fatherly role or mentor these children.

“I don’t want to stigmatise single-parent homes because I have seen single-parent homes and we all know them, which have produced incredibly well-rounded, sound, productive adults. So not every single-parent home has problems, but, we are seeing a preponderance.”

She further said that discussions must be held where these children are asked what might be the reason behind their outbursts.

“Were you hungry? Is that why you steal from your classmate? Well, let’s give you a meal. Are you playing the fool because you think nobody can hit you or nobody can do anything? Well, there are different means of discipline that we will be implementing.”

She further explained that it is of paramount importance that the ministry steps up because these instances of bad behaviour engender different reactions from parents and other students.

Only last week there were instances of gang-related and other violent acts at two Georgetown schools.

On Thursday last, the police were first called into the Lodge secondary school and an air gun was found in a student’s bag.

In a separate incident, teachers and students of the Campbellville Secondary School in Georgetown were traumatised after a ‘gang-related’ incident disrupted the entire school on Thursday.

This was just one day after teachers protested about the prevailing issues of gang-related issues at school.

Meanwhile, the Commander of Regional Division #2, Shivpersaud Bacchus on Monday said that the residents in partnership with the police force and policing groups in the region are tackling youth violence through programmes created to keep youths meaningfully occupied.

He said that there are 11 youth groups in the region which are part of the youth initiative programme where they get engaged in learning trades.

He then explained that depending on the seriousness of the situation at schools, the police is alerted but the welfare and the parents must be present before the police can engage because of stipulations that the police must follow before acting on a reports schools.

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