Inadequate education and health provisions, as well a problematic market system were some of the issues heard by Minister within the Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker during a recent visit to communities in Region Ten.
According to a Guyana Information Agency (GINA) release, Whittaker and other officials undertook an outreach to several communities, including Sand Hill, Kwakwani, and Calcuni, Upper Berbice, Region Ten, and discovered several matters which were causing residents of these areas some amount of strife.
While engaging the residents of Sand Hill, Whittaker was told that the standard of education being offered in the community had gradually declined because of a lack of trained teachers. The residents reportedly told the minister that when teachers are sent to be trained some of them fail to return to the village.
Residents also told the minister than many parents can ill-afford to send their children to the schools which they are awarded after the National Grade Six Assessment.
Responding to these concerns, Whittaker is said to have reminded residents of the government’s commitment to developing education in Guyana. But, according to GINA, the minister told them that they still need to do all they can to invest in their children’s education.
Additionally, although he noted their concerns, Whittaker told the parents that teacher numbers “are not necessarily the solution” to their education woes.
“A teacher can give their heart and soul but once they don’t have the cooperation of the parents and the community it daunts their spirits,” the minister was quoted as saying.
Nevertheless, he gave assurances that the issue would be taken up with the Education Ministry. Residents of Sand Hill also expressed their dissatisfaction at existing health-sector related issues.
They reportedly inquired about having a replacement Community Health Worker or Medex function when the existing officers go off on leave.
On this issue, the minister encouraged resident to engage the Health Ministry, while prompting them to identify persons who would be desirous of being trained in those capacities. The community, GINA said, was also encouraged to identify persons to be trained as midwives just in case the relevant person is not available. The minister also promised to make representation on their behalf to the Health Ministry.
The minister also learned of alleged efforts to improve the effectiveness of the Interim Management Council (IMC) in Kwakwani. GINA’s release on the minister’s visit to community states that he met council members of the IMC who explained to him that vendors are refusing to pay their rates and taxes; there is a serious need for proper solid waste management and disposal provisions; there is a need for the re-institution of salaries for several workers attached to the IMC; and issues of illegal vending need to be addressed.
As it relates to the non-payment of rates and taxes, the minister heard of a Linden man who operates five stalls in the market but refuses to pay his rates. Specific to the issue of workers’ salaries, the minister said that matter would have to be dealt with by the Finance Ministry.
GINA said the councillors told the minister that they had made efforts to establish a Market Committee to address the problems facing the market, but that these were thwarted after a “religious prayer group” took a position against such a committee and encouraged some members of the community to do the same.
As a general solution to the combination of woes, GINA said, the minister proposed a “Market Agreement,” which all persons vending in and around the market will be required to sign. Persons who refuse to sign the agreement, he told the councillors, would face “penalties.”