Region Six launches truancy campaign
Girl, six and boy, seven, found working
Stabroek News
December 11, 2001

The Region Six Department of the Ministry of Education last week embarked on its truancy campaign, within the three towns in the district to ensure children were in school when they were supposed to be.

The operations, which began in Georgetown on October 23, moved to the Ancient County, taking many unaware. The team, including nurses, probation and welfare officers, teachers, volunteers, police and Town Constabulary personnel visited several vending sites, and Nintendo shops where most of the 162 students were found.

While some parents/guardians were opposed to the way the campaign was conducted in New Amsterdam, as many students had completed their end-of-term test and "nothing was being done at school," their counterparts in the other areas welcomed the team and said such an act was long overdue, as children should attend school regularly and be given an opportunity to complete their formal education.

At Corriverton, several boys were seen employed as conductors on Tapirs (a vehicle used for public transport). When the first was caught, he opted to identify to the members of the team, other vehicles where youths were hired as conductors, leading to the capture of ten, all of whom were primary school dropouts.

At Rose Hall Town, two under-13 drug addicts were found and the mother of one of them complained of being abused by him. A ten-year-old was found dreadfully ill and had to be taken for treatment at the New Amsterdam Hospital. Some boys were found at the home of a 'friend' at Williamsburg, and were unable to give any explanation when questioned about their reason for being there.

Of the students found loitering in the New Amsterdam market, two girls from Berbice High stated that they were going to visit a sick relative at the Public Hospital. Visiting hours are 12 noon to 1:00 pm. They were seen at 9:15 am. When discovered, one of the students failed to show remorse and was openly defiant to the officials.

A good many were seen employed at vulcanizing shops, and lumberyards. At Bovell's Sawmill, Gangaram, East Canje, one child labourer escaped the hands of law enforcement officers on the team, by plunging overboard. Another escaped in the nearby bushy area. One of the parents of the captured sawmill 'employee' laughingly told the team, "De boy na hear me, he wan do e own thing." The child in question is seven years old.

A six-year-old, was seen vending haberdasheries at Rose Hall, Canje. She said that her mother was dead, and she was assisting in maintaining herself. Five girls were seen loitering at Betsy Ground, another East Canje Location, they claimed to have left school at Primary Four, having being unsuccessful at the Secondary School Entrance Examinations.

A 13-year-old told the team that both of her parents had died and it was difficult for her grandmother to upkeep her in school, while another stated that because of constant conflict between her parents, she was finding it

difficult to concentrate.

Fourteen boys were found at one of the three Nintendo shops visited, and a parent was arrested after he behaved in a disorderly manner when his child was asked for his reasons for being in the shop. Two boys from the Canje Secondary and Berbice High respectively, broke down in tears when they were held. Between sobs, one stated that his mother warned him about the effects of the game and that it would lead to gambling, while the other said he had disappointed his parents and teachers who expected much from him, and promised there would not be an reoccurrence.

A fifth former from the Vryman's Erven Secondary, when found at the games shop, said that he was awaiting his friend to do their SBA assignment, as his home was inconvenient and he did not appreciate the library environment. When contacted, many parents were astonished to learn that their children were not in school. One parent flogged his third form son, openly after he learnt that his child lied concerning his whereabouts.

Schools Welfare Officer, Carol Johnson, told this newspaper that negligence and single parenthood were identified as the common underlying factors. Most parents were either employed at the sugar estates or with security firms and spent long hours away from the home leaving their children unmonitored. "The children need help, many are neglecting school because their parents have neglected them. It has been found that parents give up on their children too quickly."

The educator said that poverty was no excuse for a lack of education, which was free. She noted that many of the children were unable to write their names. She stated that the campaign, which was in its first stage, had been deemed successful as many persons had been assisting with information on the hereabouts of defectors.