There is a need for more trained teachers and better internet access in hinterland communities so that learners can be able to benefit more from developments in the local education sector, Indigenous youth Judy Winter said on Tuesday.
Winter, a final year law student at the University of Guyana, spoke during the Ina Maimu Yetatokon panel discussion hosted by the Amerindian Peoples Association.
Ina Maimu Yetatokon is a Patamona phrase that translates to “Listen to our voices” and the discussion focused on experiences of Guyana’s Indigenous people. Winter spoke about educational challenges faced by Indigenous youth.
“In our communities, we have few teachers which leads to fewer subjects being offered at the [Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examination] and teachers rarely stay in our communities after, let’s say, (after) studying at the University of Guyana,” she highlighted.
And she pointed out that English is not the first language for many learners but much of the education content delivered is done in that language. That makes it difficult for learners to immerse themselves in the content, Winter noted.
There is, however, some focus being placed on bilingual programmes. Winter noted that the bilingual education programme for Wapichan children is one programme that is being expanded to help Indigenous youth.
But there are more concerns, especially given the focus on increased online learning.
Winter acknowledged that the education sector is being improved but access to the internet is a huge challenge.
“Sometimes I want to cry because I can’t connect (to the internet).
“This is becoming more of a cry from the communities that we need more efficient, reliable internet services,” the Indigenous youth highlighted.
With improved internet services, she believes more people would be able to access online classes from their communities. Doing so, she said, would allow them to learn better since they are in the comfort of their own communities.
The challenges hinterland communities are faced with are not unknown.
Earlier this year, when she announced the results of the 2023 National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), Education Minister Priya Manickchand noted that much more effort is needed to help reduce the educational disparities that exist between Guyana’s hinterland and coastal regions.
“Performance in the hinterland continues to not measure up to the performance on the coast.
“… for a variety of reasons, we have not been able to catch the gap there,” she said.
She, however, noted that the Education Ministry is working towards guaranteeing that there are more trained teachers in hinterland communities. Plans are also unfolding to help improve internet penetration and provide more digital tools.
According to the Ministry of Finance’s Mid-Year Report, the government is looking to procure more than 7,500 digital tablets in the second half of 2023 for students to access course materials and develop their digital skills. These will be able to function offline in areas with poor connectivity.