President Bharrat Jagdeo encouraged youths at the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) to utilise the available opportunities at the centre to obtain an education, even as he gave assurances that government will continue to take steps to ensure their transition back into society is smooth.
“Government sees you just as valuable as any other child in the country and you can count on us anytime,” Jagdeo told the children on Wednesday during the NOC’s annual Minister’s Luncheon held at the Onderneeming, Region Two facility, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported.
He said too that despite the unfortunate circumstances that led to their living at the institution, a bright future still lies ahead for them and that each of them has an important role to play in the transformation of Guyana.
The president also encouraged the children to look past their current circumstances and to be hopeful. “I promise that we as a Government will do whatever it takes to ensure that your reintegration with society goes as smoothly as possible,” he added.
Jagdeo noted that many of the children are afraid to return to the circumstances that led them to the facility, which he said is due to parental failure.
He said from his interactions with youth on the streets, it is clear that many of them had faced some form of abuse, resulting in them running away from home. As such, he gave assurances that his government will be examining ways to ensure that the children’s transition from the facility back into society goes smoothly and that they are not returned to an environment that inhibits their growth. “We are working at this in a two-fold way; we are trying to ensure that those kids have access to opportunities, because the State has enough resources to ensure that every one of them gets an education.
At the same time we are also taking action and that is why we have passed some tough pieces of legislation against those who abuse children,” he said.
Jagdeo encouraged the youth to make full use of the opportunities available to them at the NOC. He told them that there is no need to feel stigmatised because of where they live or study and that, “this is just a short part of a long journey.”
He presented the children with gifts, based on a wish list that they had earlier submitted.
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr Frank Anthony said over the years the ministry has been striving to make the NOC a nurturing home environment for children. Along with formal education, the children are trained in several technical disciplines, such as carpentry, masonry, garment construction and welding.
Additionally, computer classes are also offered, with the ministry recently donating 14 computer systems to the institution. “There are many children in here who would write exams to go to primary and secondary schools in the community and we have had many successes,” Anthony said. Some of them have excelled at the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate exam, which guarantees them a job once they leave the institution. Dr Anthony said the institution has also established a level of self-sufficiency by propelling its agricultural programme, which will be expanded in the New Year. He noted that when the children leave, “they go back to their communities with employable skills and even if they want to further their studies, they are fully equipped to do so.”
In his address Region Two Chairman Ali Baksh said that the NOC has seen significant transformation over the past decade, with over $50M spent on rehabilitation and the acceleration of the agriculture programme in 2009. He also lauded government’s move to seek more qualified persons to manage the various aspects of the institution. Recently, the Regional Administration presented the NOC with a land tiller and a brush cutter, two vital pieces of agricultural equipment.
The NOC, Guyana’s only juvenile correctional centre, was initially established as a disciplinary centre for young men, under the name the Essequibo Boys’ School. It was renamed the New Opportunity Corps in the 1970s.