Chief Education Officer issues statement on Kato schoolchildren logs incident

Chief Education Officer Olato Sam today issued the following statement:

Re: ‘Hinterland primary students trek miles with logs for “hot meals”, Kaieteur News- 2013/06/05

Let me preface all I have to say by stating that I strongly and unequivocally support freedom of the press and in no way would attempt to curtail those freedoms within our developing socio-political context.  The recent Kaieteur News front page article entitled ‘Hinterland primary students trek miles with logs for “hot meals” (2013/06/05), raises some pressing concerns however, in relation to the level of ethical responsibility our journalists have vis-à-vis the need to grab catchy headlines and sell newspapers.  Let me state, that I in no way support the use of our children to fetch logs to prepare meals; our Ministry’s position has been clearly stated.   I would have expected however, that a thorough investigation would have been done to ascertain the circumstances surrounding this issue prior to publishing this story.

In the article it would have been of significant relevance if the following could have been established:

1. Is this the normal practice or a one-off incident; and if the latter, what were the causal factors?  2. Is this happening within school feeding programmes elsewhere and/or what are the experiences, whether positive or negative, occurring within the constructs of this programme nationwide?  3. What are the deeper implications for this and other types of programmes for the way we prepare our young people within the context of limited resources and the clear needs of our population?  4. Is there a correlation between the improved attendance rate and the school feeding programme?

The absence of this information, entertains the possibility of potentially harmful conjecture, which can damage a well established success story within the education system.  It would be interesting to know whether prior to publishing this article minus such a thorough analysis of the issues, whether the following were examined on any level:  What are the implications for the children whose pictures are now captured for the world to view?  Is the greater good served—meaning do the circumstances warrant and justify any potential harm this might bring to them?  What are the implications for this programme, funded for years by a multi-national funding agency, within the constructs of our need for such future support to effectively meet the needs of the less fortunate in this society?   What objective is served as a result of this article?

I would hope that these and other relevant questions are routinely asked when issues with such deep implications for our nation’s children are to be addressed in the media.  I feel, probably because of my professional bias, that when we are dealing with the nation’s children we must ask these questions and be honest with the answers.  At the end of the day it would be a shame to know that the number of papers we sell, and the “online readership” numbers we quote, are our only motivation.



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