The Ministry of Education inaugurated student councils in 13 schools on Wednesday, in keeping with its broader initiative to give students a greater voice on matters that affect them.
In a press release, the ministry said the councils will enable students to play a more active role in the decision-making processes of their schools and participate in measures, along with their teachers, to eliminate violence, discourage gangs and to be positive role models.
The councils were inaugurated at a ceremony hosted at the National Centre for Education Resource Develop-ment, under the theme “Empowering student learners as partner of change.” In his address, Minister of Education Shaik Baksh said that although student councils will replace the prefect system, the innovation is not entirely new to the school system. The new system is “well structured and better organised” and it will allow students to work alongside teachers to improve the disciplinary and academic standards and the general image of their schools. These students will be seen as ambassadors of change and will play a key role in realising the opportunities given to them.
Baksh also noted that though the councils are governed by clearly established guidelines, the ministry has established a team to resolve matters that arise from time-to-time. The minister also noted that about three months ago a national student council was launched at the University of Guyana and the student councils can be a part of that group.
Baksh said one of the broader objects of the councils is to develop articulate students with sound leadership skills in the school system and it has put measures in place to develop the varying abilities of students as part of a wider plan to arrest truancy at the secondary level. It has also introduced the Secondary School Competency Certificate Programme, which preliminary reports have indicated is making an impact.
In addition, the ministry has been focusing on drama, sports and physical education to create more rounded students. Chief Education Officer Olato Sam said the student councils will give students a greater voice and will increase their participation in matters that affect them, create a forum for them to develop civic values, help them to understand the importance of compromise and improve classroom and school management. More importantly, it will pave the way for the establishment of a better system of democracy and good governance in schools.
Parent-Teachers Coordinator Carol Benn said the establishment of student councils will make students more visible partners in their education and allow them to be a part of the solution in matters that affect them and their schools. She also noted that the council is a safe space and an ideal forum to address matters such as bullying and other issues challenging the school system.
Each student council will comprise a president, vice-president, a secretary and PRO, all of whom will be elected by the students of their schools. It is expected that councils will be implemented in all schools.