Truancy rate is decreasing. A new approach by the Ministry of Education is helping. “Operation CARE” has replaced truancy campaigns and it is showing results.
Chief Schools’ Welfare Officer, Gillian Vyphius told the Government Information Agency (GINA), that CARE stands for Collect, Advise, Respond and Educate and the campaign is designed to help children and their families.
Chief Welfare Officer, Gillian Vyphuis
Vyphius said that the Ministry’s School Welfare Department is carrying out, “Operation CARE” campaigns once a week in all regions and that the campaigns are guided by monthly reports on students’ attendance.
“Each month all schools would submit an absent report for all the children that would have (been) absent for at least five times for the month… When we would have received those reports we would actually send warning letter (to parents) and also inviting them to the schools welfare department, so that we can discuss what are the reasons for the absences,” Vyphius explained.
She explained that if the parent fails to show, the department would visit the home, accompanied by representative from the school, the Ministry of Social Protection and the Guyana Police Force.
Vyphius explained that the presence of the police is for protection as there have been instances where Welfare Officers were abused. Teachers are included to help identify the home of the student while the Ministry of Social Protection is included to address socioeconomic issues that may be preventing the child from attending school.
Vyphius noted that there were cases where the child or the parent may claim that they do not have uniforms. She said in such case, the department makes use of a “care barrel” that it has created. “We would have stuff like uniforms in there and when the parent would visit our department after the campaign if there are available uniforms that they can utilise we would give it to them,” Vyphius said.
However in cases where the parents faces more serious financial constraints, the department would refer them to the Probation and Welfare Department of the Ministry of Social Protection for public assistance.
In addition to visiting the home of students, the Schools’ Welfare Department has also been conducting weekly checks of bus parks and market areas for students.
According to Vyphius, these exercises have focused primarily on Georgetown and Region Six and they are having positive results. “Since we are carrying out these campaigns once per week, we find that it (absenteeism) minimize. We do not find a lot of students out of schools when we go on these campaigns,” Vyphius said.
In carrying out the checks of the bus parks and market places, Vyphius explained that the department would collect the children and then call in the parent to discuss the reason for the child’s absence from school.
The Education Act 39:01, states that parents can be charged or fined if their child has unexcused absences from school. However, Vyphius said this is the “last resort.”
“That is why we call our campaigns now, “Operation CARE” because, in some cases you might charge a parent and they go before a court of law and they just pay a fine and some parents might just think it is ok. So what we would normally do, we would work with the parent or the family so that they can have their children in school,” the Chief Schools’ Welfare Officer explained.