Police, religious leaders called in to help curb violence at public schools

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Education Minister Priya Manickchand

The Ministry of Education said it will be taking a holistic approach to address the rising incidence of violence in some schools across Guyana.

The approach will see the involvement of the Guyana Police Force, including the Community Policing Group, as well as pastors and other religious leaders in the respective communities.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand spoke with the Department of Public Information (DPI) on Thursday, a day after teachers downed tools at the Lodge Secondary School in Georgetown in protest against intimidation and threats by students suspected to be part of gangs.

Minister Manickchand said while students need to be educated, their behaviour which affects teachers and other students will not be accepted.

“I want students particularly to understand something, while you have a right to education, other people have a right to enjoy their space without fear, and that right will trump any right you believe you have to be disruptive, and I want to say that very clearly,” the education minister noted.

“We cannot have one or two or ten children hold any school to ransom and it is not going to happen,” she added.

She said teachers, students, parents, community elders, along with the Ministries of Health, Home Affairs, Human Services and Social Security, Local Government and Regional Development, will all be engaged to ensure the situation is changed.

“We are on a mission to take back our schools and so you will see right now there is police right in that school, searching bags and speaking to students, and we can already see a calming down in the school, so there are going to be measures that are going to be implemented. All may not be conventional. all may not be welcome,” Minister Manickchand added.

The education minister also encouraged parents to check on their children, and have an idea of what is in their bags. “Check on them, know who they are liming with, know who they are hanging out with, know what kind of friends they have and we are going to put some tough measures in place.”

For the Lodge Secondary School, Minister Manickchand said there will be a PTA meeting where parents of children displaying violent behaviour will be invited. If they fail to attend, the child would not be accepted back into school until their parents engage with teachers.

“That does not mean we will leave them to stray on the street, that means we will take them and go to their homes until we find each and every of those 338 children’s homes and get their parents to understand what’s happening in the school, what their role is and how together we can make their children shine,” Minister Manickchand noted. 

She said schools with such problems need an entire overhaul.

“It didn’t happen overnight, none of this happened overnight and so we have to look at the entire structure of that school, academically, physically, civil works, everything and we are in the process of doing that with a few of the schools, and we will require all the help we can get,” she said.

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