SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS FOR AMERINDIAN STUDENTS AT ANNAI SECONDARY IN GUYANA
I was recently in the North Rupununi region of Guyana looking for investment opportunities to help the region develop, but many Amerindian communities in Guyana are aware that I also submit reports on Human Rights issues to the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS) – as well as for several local, regional and International media outlets. Whilst I was in the area several Amerindian parents came looking for me in my hammock under the Benab I was staying at and told me many things that I think the Government of Guyana needs to investigate, I cannot say whether all that was reported to me was accurate or not, but I CAN say that many different concerned parents repeated the same litany of complaints – and this is why the matter is deserving of closer scrutiny by the new administration of President Ramotar whom I am confident is unaware of this matter thus far – and therefore NOT to be blamed for the sad state of affairs reported to me below.
As you see in the photograph that I took of the official letter that was sent to Amerindian parents of students at the Annai Secondary School – the list of items these poor parents are expected to provide is quite extensive – and costly, about GY$60,000 in fact – which is equal to 2 months salary of a junior teacher in the Ministry of Education!
How are such poor people expected to accrue this large sum of money to educate their children I ask? Many items are not even required by students in Barbados Secondary Schools – among the most developed and advanced in the Caribbean, and other items – such as plates, cups, cutlery, mosquito nets etc. for the students from distant villages who are using the dorms at the Annai Secondary School – should NOT have to be provided by themselves at all, it is the Ministry of Education’s place to see that the Annai Secondary School is well supplied to be able to accommodate and cater for these poor hinterland students; and in the event that said items WERE officially provided…pray tell what has happened to them? For the School is now requesting the students to provide the same again.
Among the complaints that I was told are the following:
* Half the fence posts are broken down and the school compound’s security is compromised.
* Children are fetching water at school from a well that is not secured (they could fall in and drown) – furthermore the well is OFF the school compound and a child was recently bitten by a poisonous snake in the bushes nearby.
* No diesel to operate the pump or gasoline for the school generator so the children have no electricity.
* 3-5 children must share one small dorm room.
* Mattresses (if you can call them that) are the one inch thick cheapest type of uncovered foam available.
* Children being told to bring their own hammocks to sling in the overcrowded dorm rooms as the ‘mattresses‘ are barely wide enough for 2 children to sleep ‘comfortably‘.
* Children being told to bring their own mosquito nets – as the school cannot provide.
* Children being fed only one slice of bread and a cup of tea for breakfast.
* The Headmistress recently had to purchase rope so children could tie their hammocks and when she approached the REO (who is supposed to manage the region for the government) for funding assistance to complete the unfinished dorms which currently house 475 Amerindian children – he allegedly told the Annai Principal “Annai is not the only school we have to look after“.
In my humble opinion this was a most UNPROFESSIONAL way to answer the Annai headmistress, the Minister with authority over the REO needs to give him a crash course in diplomacy – for it would have been better (if the report given to me is true) that he answered in a more pleasant manner (for example) such as: “I know the troubles you are facing Mrs……. and I assure you that I am doing my best to get you the help you need – but it may not be forthcoming as fast as you and I may wish”
- Registered participant in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII),
- Member of the Indigenous Caucus of the Americas working group on the Draft Declaration of the Americas and Sole Caribbean Representative on the planning committee of the 4th Indigenous Leaders Summit of the Americas (ILSA) – both at the Organization of American States (OAS).
- CARICOM Commissioner on the Indigenous Commission for Communications Technologies in the Americas (ICCTA)