Alliance For Change (AFC) presidential candidate, Khemraj Ramjattan on Monday promised ethnic diversity education in the school system to help heal historical racial wounds.
Addressing a forum organised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), he noted that race and ethnic divide is being fuelled and perpetuated by remarks being made by elderly persons.
To listen to a podcast of the forum, please click the GREEN PLAY button:
“We have to be careful as to how we make our utterances at home about other ethnic communities,” he said at the event held at the Umana Yana, Kingston.
Titled “Guyana’s Commitment: Making Children Visible,” the event saw representatives of the AFC, Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and The United Force (TUF) signing a Call to Action declaration, committing them to improving the lot of children in accordance with international laws, norms and practices.
In addition to homes playing a major role in fostering positive inter-racial relations, he pointed to the need for the school system to play a major role to deal with that “curse of this country.” He said the AFC, whether in or out of government, would push for schools’ curricula to include education that would help address an absence of reconciliation and harmony.
“We have to also start a process of education at the curriculum level that will see to it that our Guyanese children across ethnic divides appreciate our diversity,” he said.
In his presentation, Peoples Progressive Party Civic’s (PPPC) prime ministerial candidate, Samuel Hinds noted that there are “great challenges” in forging national unity. Although Guyanese are of different cultural backgrounds and local conflicting experiences, he disagreed that the country is steeped in division.
“Our image is not one of a divided people though we recognize that the differences were been exploited. Our image has been one that there is a great challenge and great effort required for us to come together as one people from our different historical position,” he said.
Even if the AFC loses the November 28 general election, Ramjattan said his party would push for the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and the provision of free lunches and subsidized transportation for certain eligible children. The establishment of countrywide apprenticeship training centres and the subsidizing of tertiary education in Science, Engineering and Mathematics rather than Social Sciences as well as the subsidizing of sports equipment are part of the agenda, he said.
Ten faith-based organisations, Khemraj Ramjattan said, would be given at least GUY$2 million to execute at least five projects to focus on youth integration into religion and provide suicide counseling and career counseling.
Still on the matter of cash, the AFC Chairman said his party wants to see a GUY$2,000 monthly allowance for a child or adopted child up to 18 years.
“We are going to, in a sense, create the conditions for these things happening by any other political party that wins the elections because children are our future,” he said.
APNU representative, Cheryl Sampson, in her presentation, said her party would ensure that existing laws related to children are enforced and reviewed where ever possible.
They include the Status of Children Act 2009, Adoption of Children Act 2009, Protection of Children Act 2009, Sexual Offences Act 2010 and the Custody, Contact, Guardianship and Maintenance Act 2011.
“A Partnership for National Unity government will make sure that these laws do not passively remain on the law-books of Guyana but that they will be fully and actively implemented,” she said.
The effective application of the laws, she said, would be monitored and reviewed because new cases would be developed under those pieces of legislation
Proper training of officers of the Child Protection Agency (CPA), payment of higher salaries to teachers and the equipping of schools with proper physical facilities and education material, Sampson said, would be guaranteed under an APNU-led government.
“APNU-led government will reform the education system to provide the necessary facilities to make the school environment more conducive to learning,” said Sampson, former teacher.