Stop sale of soft drinks in schools, make physical education mandatory

-parliamentary committee proposes to ministries

John Adams

The Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services has recommended that schools be discouraged from selling soft drinks in their canteens, according to government Member of Parliament (MP) John Adams.

Adams on Monday presented a motion calling for the adoption of the committee’s seventh periodic report. That report covers the period September 10th, 2015 to February 16th, 2018 and provides recommendations on a numbers of issues.

In his presentation to the National Assembly, Adams, who was elected Chairperson of the committee on September 10th, 2015, said the ministries of Education and Public Health were engaged on the sale of aerated drinks in schools. Several recommendations, he said, were made and it was the committee’s hope that the Education Ministry would be able to do something to restrict canteens from selling such beverages.

According to the report, the committee dispatched letters to the two subject ministers on May 15th, 2017. The two recommendations made were that schools be encouraged not to sell such beverages and that the sale of “healthy, wholesome and nutritious foods” should be recommended to encourage healthy eating habits. According to the report, such healthy eating habits should also be encouraged via television shows, radio air time, billboards and parent-teacher association meetings.

The committee also recommended that physical education be mandatory in school.

Adams also told the National Assembly that the committee examined the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and canvassed the staff of the Parliament Office but no such complaints were received.

According to the report, a sensitisation seminar on sexual harassment in the workplace was held by the committee on April 12th, 2017, having recognized that that there was need for such a conversation since it was felt that the issue was not being treated with much urgency.

“Additionally, the members felt that some individuals are unaware of what constitutes sexual harassment in the work environment, while there are others who do not know how it should be dealt with or where to seek help for victim(s)/perpetrator (s),” the report explained.

Meanwhile, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, who was elected Chairperson of the committee on January 27th, 2017, told the House that in focusing on key areas, which included health, education and youth, the committee came across things which were both disappointing and heartening.

She said that at the end of it all, the conclusion was that there was need for data collection and the monitoring and evaluation of that information. She proposed that the committee’s report be looked at from an impact level.

“It would be useful for there to be a comparative analysis of the years of work and the House should be told how effective the work of these committees are to the workings of Parliament,” she said.

She paid special interest to the sale of alcohol to underage persons and on religious holidays.

A police team, comprising ‘A’ Division Commander Marlon Chapman, then Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum and Royston Andries, Head of the Strategic Planning Unit (SPU) of the police force, made a presentation on the sale to minors on July 28th, 2017.

Among the recommendations later made by the committee, based on the information provided by the police, were that shop/bar owners be given two warnings, failing which their licences should be revoked for non-compliance; that it should be mandatory for such businesses to display notices informing that the sale of alcohol to minors is illegal; that the Guyana Revenue Authority and the police should collaborate to establish a sensitisation notice for shop/bar owners and the general public; that there should be public awareness campaigns; and that legislation should be amended to govern the same of alcohol to minors.

The committee also held discussions on suicide and visited several health centres. The report outlines the recommendations made in both areas.

PPP/C MPs Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo and Alistair Charlie also made contributions on the motion.

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