What retired teachers say about… Improving the delivery of education in Guyana

Under the theme ‘Quality Education Leadership: Improving Schools from Within,’ Education Month 2015 was celebrated in Guyana in September. Throughout the month-long observance, emphasis was placed on stimulating thoughts on ways of improving the delivery of education by focusing on the inner running of the schools. This week, we asked retired teachers in Berbice who had provided decades of service to the sector, what policies/procedures they would like to see improved in the delivery of quality education in Guyana. Their responses follow:


Interviews and photos by Jannelle Williams


20151026 Yvonne RoseYvonne Rose, over 30 years’ experience: ‘First thing, they should restore religious knowledge in schools. Anytime you start without God, you are going to go astray and children need guidance. The Bible says train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. All of that is in education. As long as a child has a sound religious, moral education that child is going to go good. I’m not saying that child is going to be perfect, but in school so many things have gone wrong: morals, respect – they have all been degraded. I believe that these things have to be restored in schools, so that our children will respect their elders, respect their teachers, and most of all respect God. When they have love for God, they are going to love every other person. That’s how I see it, to bring back real education. Education is not just how many subjects you have, but it’s what you do with your life after you have required those subjects.’





20151026 Juliet MoriahJuliet Moriah, over 17 years’ experience: ‘There used to be a literacy programme for the slow learners and they need to bring this back. Some of these children go on to high school and they still cannot read. Some of them come out of the school system and they are not able to read properly. There used to be a fast-track programme where the facilitators look after the slow learners in primary schools, so the teachers would give them all the slow learners and you would work with them until they are able to read. However, there is nothing like that now. With the “no child left behind,” if a child cannot read, he would go from class to class without being able to read. That is of concern. This is my concern.’





20151026 Ursilla PluckUrsilla Pluck, 39 years’ experience: ‘In order to improve the education system, the Ministry of Education along with GTU (Guyana Teachers’ Union) and the University of Guyana should come to a decision that teachers should only attend UG after school hours. It’s a problem when teachers have to leave to go to UG and it’s very stressful for the teachers who are remaining. They would stay away especially on Fridays. So if they could make that decision so that teachers can go to UG after school hours and on the weekends it would be a better situation for the children and the head teacher in terms of supervision.’





20151026 Yvonne Mc AlmonYvonne Mc Almon, over 34 years’ experience: ‘The school I used to teach at, we were the nursery along with the primary and what I found was limited space for play areas. All they were doing was building, building; we are having buildings and not enough space for the children to move about and exhaust that energy. After a break and they go back into the classrooms, there is supposed to be a lull, to have quietness. But because they didn’t have enough play area and most of the energy wasn’t used up, you go back into the classroom and it is the same noise and hyper energy. And for those schools with the play areas, there should be regular maintenance. Timetable physical education in all the classes at every level and provide the environment for such. Also, we need to have more positivity; when the teachers would have tried to do something to uplift or upgrade the school they should actually be given praises and compliments. Don’t just go into the schools and criticize – this is not right and this is not how it should be. It makes the teachers feel demeaned or like their efforts are not accepted. Some of them will not continue, they will say we are doing all of this and we are not getting the kind of encouragement we need. Show them where they are going wrong, but take the time to praise their efforts as well.’





20151026 Kowsilla Tahal,Kowsilla Tahal, 35 years’ experience: ‘When I was a head teacher, there were two main things I would have liked to see addressed. One, there is need for synchronized schemes within the schools. This means that if a child is transferred from one region to another or from one school to another within the same region, the child must be able to be on a level playing field with the other children. The concepts must be retained. Whatever the child was learning at that school it should be the same thing being taught at the new school. Let’s say the child is learning global warming at the old school, it means that all the schools should be teaching global warming at the same time, so that when the child is moved from one school to another there is continuity with his/her education. Because when children get transferred they sometimes struggle, but it’s not that the child is dumb, it is usually because they are at a loss as to how to grapple with what is being taught at the new school so that they can catch up. It has to do with especially children of nurses and military people who are often transferred and take their children with them. Although the topic areas are covered within the schools, the weeks must be synchronized. Two, we are having a lot of disciplinary problems in schools and sometimes it is out of the realm of the teachers and head teachers. There are some things that they cannot really deal with or address. There are some touchy, tricky issues that if teachers attempt to address they might end up doing more harm than good. So we need social workers and welfare officers attached to the schools to address those kinds of things. Apart from that, there is still the issue of overcrowding in the classroom that needs to be addressed and we need substitute teachers. Whenever a teacher goes on leave…, we must have substitute teachers or a teacher’s aide who could work along with the children until the regular teacher returns.’





20151026 Carmen JohnsonCarmen Johnson, 35 years’ experience: ‘Each school needs a guidance counsellor or a social worker to deal with the discipline in the school. We find that the children are not disciplined. When they are on the road, they use any sort of language, whether persons are there or not, they don’t care how they speak and they do it in school too. So if they get the social worker or the guidance teacher to talk to them about how to behave on the road as well as in school, we would see improvements.’






20151026 Gem HazelGem Hazel, over 15 years’ experience: ‘They have to bring back religious instruction in schools. I think that will be able to serve as a form of discipline in the school. They have to be more closely knitted to the home. Teaching is a good job it’s a nice job but its strenuous teaching large classes. So I would say the number of children that one teacher is responsible for should be moderate. One teacher should not be asked to teach more than twenty five children. However, we find this happening in the classrooms. So this individual attention is not there. Most children need to have individual attention. Why I stress the need for individual attention is because you have slow learners and the high flyers. When you have a large class, emphasis is placed on those who can do it and the less academic inclined children are left to suffer. Also, the home should be able to play a part. Parents need to play greater roles in their children’s learning. Parents have to be more dedicated to their children, they have to show their children that they care by giving them love and attention; going to the school to find out how they are progressing and so on.’






20151026 Catherine ArcherCatherine Archer, over 40 years’ experience: ‘In my opinion, there needs to be more parental supervision for children. There is also need to have the home involved a lot more in the children’s day-to-day activities in school as well as supporting the school’s activities throughout the period the child is at school. Sometimes the parent does not show the interest and the children, knowing the parent is not showing the interest, kind of falls back. Most often it is a situation of basic respect for the child, as well as respect for the school. That child learns to generally have a good self-confidence and work because they know what the parent is expecting of them and what the teacher is expecting of them and they will work towards achieving those things and being successful.’





20151026 gretelGretel Thomas, 13 years’ experience: ‘I would like to see a better teacher/pupil relationship. You know teachers should look at children as not just their students but how they would look at their own children. Pay more interest in them. We also need the parents to support the teachers. You know some parents would say negative things about the teacher in the earshot of the child so that would cause a breakdown in respect. Teachers on the other hand should be able to overlook the rebelliousness of some children and treat them as they would their own.’





20151026 bernadetteBernadette Douglas, over 30 years’ experience: ‘The curriculum at the primary level and its delivery needs to be addressed. Some of the Grade Six teachers do not teach the curriculum as such in the school. They would leave important topics that are supposed to be taught in school for lessons. So if… a parent cannot afford to send the child to the lessons, that child won’t be able to gain what the concept was on that topic because the teacher would not go back to the classroom and teach the topic… The curriculum is supposed to be taught in school, so if that is enforced; if the teachers are compelled to be professionals and do the right thing, it would be better.’