“Me mammy and me daddy ah drink too much rum, dem nah send me to school. When me stepfather beat me mammy, she does run to she married husband…,” a 12-year-old boy disclosed when he was nabbed during the Region Six truancy campaign yesterday.
The truant was among 33 picked up during a surprise exercise in the East Canje area.
Dubbed ‘Operation Care’, the ongoing exercise is aimed at ensuring that children between the ages of five years, nine months and 14 years, nine months are placed in learning institutions.
Schools Welfare Officer Alfa Mohammed said there has been a significant drop in the number of truants found in the current exercise as compared with the previous one. The decrease, he said, reflects an improved involvement of parents in their children’s lives.
However, while some parents and guardians are making the effort and have secured assistance from the Ministry of Human Services by way of school vouchers and uniforms, others continue to make excuses for their child’s absence from school.
At the Rose Hall Town Primary School, where the truants were temporarily detained while their guardians and parents were reminded of their roles and responsibilities, a mother confessed that since her husband who is a fisherman broke his arm, she is finding it difficult to send three of her six children to school; the other three are underage.
However, when her oldest daughter, aged 12, was asked by Welfare Officer Jainarine Singh to read or even identify one word in a part of the school’s Mission Statement that says ”Our school will be able to achieve 90% qualified pupils at the end of their primary school life,” she was unable to do so.
In another instance, the father of a teenage boy, whose teeth were stained with tobacco since he began smoking in his pre-teens, said that his son is bad behaved and uncontrollable.
The boy, now 13 years old was not successful at the National Grade Six Examination and he was placed at a Primary top, where he was also unsuccessful at the end-of-term examination. As a result, he exited school and opted to run errands for villagers. However, when he is paid, the minor would purchase illegal drugs which on most occasions would influence his delinquent behaviour.
Meanwhile, two brothers who were found with ‘sling shots’ (catapults) around their necks, as they attempted to venture into the backlands to catch birds, confessed that they did not even write the Grade Six Examination.
Pointing to the younger one, the older lad said, “his father did not buy his clothes and my mother didn’t have any money to send us to school.” Neither of their parents showed up at the detention centre to speak with the officers. The boys were subsequently released after Probation and Welfare Officer Clement Brusche, who had accompanied the team, undertook to visit the known couple.
Another child who resides in Reliance Village said she secured placement at the Canje Secondary School, about a mile from her home, but her father is unemployed and her mother is finding it difficult to cope so the 12-year-old has remained at home to assist with chores.
A mother of seven, who never attended any institution of learning, and whose story was supported by Headmistress of the Rose Hall Town Primary School, Beverly Hazelwood, said that the father of her seven children had undergone two surgeries that rendered him incapacitated, which forced her to keep the children home.
However, Mohammed reminded her of the various laws under which children are governed, including those which state that minors can be taken to a foster home where they would be cared for by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Regional Education Committee, David Armogan, during the earlier launch of Education Month, revealed that coupled with late-coming by teachers, pupils at the primary level have achieved 78% attendance resulting in a “not so good” performance at the National Grade Six Examinations.
Armogan reiterated that if poor attendance is practiced, even the brightest child could be left behind.
Teachers at the primary level in Berbice, he noted, have recorded 11,848 late minutes during the last school year. He said that head teachers ought to lead by example in order that the other staff members can attend school regularly and on time.