The National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) is hosting training for mentors to be attached to a number of schools, as it takes steps to expand the Voluntary Mentoring Programme to four more schools in January.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Education the programme will be introduced to the North Ruimveldt Multilateral, North Georgetown, Christ Church and New Campbell-ville Secondary Schools. Earlier this year, the programme was rolled out at the South Ruimveldt, Lodge, Tutorial High, Cummings Lodge, Wisburg and Linden Foundation secondary schools.
National PTA Coordinator Carol Benn said the decision to extend the programme was prompted by its successful implementation at five of the six schools where it was launched and the many appeals from parents at PTAs to have it implemented in other schools. She said too the presence of the 66 mentors at the five schools has contributed to the decrease in unacceptable behaviours from students. Benn also noted that there have been some hiccups with the programme at the Linden Foundation Secondary School but efforts are being made to overcome these challenges and to strengthen the programme there so that it attains the same level of vibrancy as at the other schools. Training of mentors for the new schools is expected to start at month end.
According to the release, the ministry relaunched the mentoring programme in March in keeping with its thrust to inculcate acceptable behaviours in students, promote tolerance and address some of the challenges in the education system which includes violence in schools and low academic performances. “The intervention also aims to strengthen relations between the school, home and community,” it said.
Under the programme a students is paired with a former student or other person considered suitable. The student, mentor and parents/ guardian meet to establish the mentor/mentee relationship. The mentors are then expected to expose the mentee to activities such as concerts, exhibitions and family outings and to interact with him/her regularly on a number of issues, particularly on topics that interest the mentee. Mentors are encouraged to form themselves into groups and parents to volunteer their services to establish school clubs to keep students meaningfully occupied.
In September, the ministry teamed up with ChildLink, formerly EveryChild Guyana to introduce the Youth Vision Programme, an initiative geared at empowering 2000 vulnerable youth with the requisite knowledge and skills to realise their full potential. The one-year project which significantly supports the work of the Schools’ Welfare Department to lessen violence in schools and promote environments that are conducive to learning, is being piloted at the St Winifride’s, St Mary’s, Dolphin’s tutorial and Huston secondary schools. Some 50 teachers along with 25 youth advocates and 100 student mentors have been tasked with delivering the programme which is also supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Minister of Education Shaik Baksh has lauded the partnership with ChildLink, other local and international partners and more recently the UNICEF to improve the outcomes of the education sector, a mission the ministry cannot accomplish alone. Baksh said more guidance and counselling officers will be placed in the school system to motivate students, boost their self-esteem and confidence to perform better in the classroom and enjoy a more harmonious relationship with their teachers and peers.
The ministry noted that there has been a significant decline in violence and other forms of unacceptable behaviours since guidance and counselling officers have been placed at certain schools. The objective now, Baksh noted is to maintain and boost the level of discipline established.