Manickchand mulls review of Juvenile Offenders Act to address surge in school violence

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Education Minister Priya Manickchand

Education Minister, Priya Manickchand has signalled considerations for reviewing Guyana’s Juvenile Offenders Act, in finding a balance between providing an education for each child while addressing the hike of violence in schools.

During her appearance on the Livewire programme on Thursday, the Education Minister stressed that the intensifying issue of violence in schools is one which authorities continue to struggle with.

Manickchand said, “We have decided that, in walking the fine line of trying to educate each child, we can’t let any single child disrupt an entire school or harm other children, hurt or bully them. A full investigation or inquiry is usually taken and we may have to suspend and expel in those circumstances. We’re trying very hard to make sure that we have sessions with all the students…and the country will have to have a relook at our Juvenile Offenders Bill.”

The former Government had dissolved the New Opportunity Corps (NOC), a facility for juvenile offenders, where they were given a chance to complete their education.

With this no longer functional, the Education Minister said the only option is to expel such students but this is not a constructive solution.

“At this point, all we could do is expel without any options for further education and that is not the most desirable place to be. So the country has to look back at how we’re going to deal with what is clearly a problem. It is not a problem here in Guyana alone but this is something most countries around the world face. We also have to look in the homes, what we say to our children.”

Another issue which has attracted the attention of the Ministry is lateness and absenteeism. Efforts have been made on the part of Government through the breakfast programme to make it easier for children to show up to school.

Indicating that it is not a fault of the Ministry, Manickchand nevertheless stated that this must be looked into at the level of the household.

She reasoned, “Those kids are being offered breakfast…All they had to do was get up and make sure that they put on their clothes, comb their hair and send them to school. What is the home’s duty and responsibility and role in building out a Guyana where all our children have an opportunity and access to education. There has to be a careful examination of that also.”

Following a spate of violence in schools, involving students, teachers and parents last year, the Ministry had declared that it would take all appropriate actions to ensure that all teachers continue to work in a safe and secured environment.

Such actions included prohibiting violent parents or guardians from having access to the school premises, transferring any learner out of a school whose parents commit acts of violence on teachers or any other sanction deemed necessary, while encouraging the Police or any other institution or authority to take whatever action the law prescribes.