SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS FOR AMERINDIAN STUDENTS AT ANNAI SECONDARY IN GUYANA

Dear Editor,

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.

{CLICK FOR BIGGER - COURTESY Damon Corrie} "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..."

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 themattresses are barely wide enough for 2 children to sleepcomfortably‘.
* 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 PrincipalAnnai 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

Sincerely,

Damon Gerard Corrie

  • 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)

3 Responses

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  1. I just received this in my inbox today (see below) – seems this sad state of affairs has been highlighted before – several years ago, and unfortunately a child has ALREADY died due to that unsecured well, one would have thought something would have been done about it after the first tragedy; how many more children must die before something is done? Bloody ridiculous!

    Dear Damon,
    I was very glad to see your letter ( in the Bajan Reporter ) on the dreadful situation at the Annai Secondary school. I visited the school with a group of visitors from the U.S. about 6 years ago and the condition of the school then was not ideal, but it was not run down as it obviously is now. That can only mean neglect. The students were bright, lively and well-cared for by the school. The school has been allowed to deteriorate in spite a earlier warnings – about the danger of that unprotected well, for example. One of my dear friends, Sydney Allicock, lost a young’s nephew because of that well ( which had malfunctioned ) only a couple of years ago. There was an electrical fault apparently which caused his death.by electrocution. He had, with a friend, I believe, gone down into the well to see why the pump had stopped working. It was a bad blow to a family which has had its share of misfortunes. So I am glad that you have brought this sad and depressing matter to the attention of the public and, one hopes, to the government authorities. It is high time that our Amerindian brothers and sisters become more visible to the authorities and to fellow Guyanese. Our ‘First Peoples’ are the stewards and protectors of the interior – by far the the greatest part of Guyana – and deserve a high place in our awareness as Guyanese and Caribbeans instead of the low position they have for so long occupied in our consciousness.
    Sincerely,
    ************

  2. UPDATE – Upon seeing this same article published by the two daily newspapers in Guyana (who used the story), the Ministry of Education in Guyana launched an immediate investigation into the matter. Upon my return to these villages one month later I was informed by the communities that ‘people from the Ministry of Education had come a week after publication and the problems have been rectified. As it turned out – the Central government on the coast HAD been sending these supplies to the interior, but someone in-between point A and point C was hoarding supplies and re-selling them in order to pocket the money..hence the school (point C) was in a ‘supplies shortage crisis’. This is another case of ‘the pen being mightier than the sword’, thanks again to the Bajan Reporter for helping to right another wrong!

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