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Proposal for teaching Civics endorsed at Social Cohesion Round-table

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal addressing the opening of the National Round-table on Social Cohesion on Thursday, September 3, 2015. Standing is sign language interpreter who served the hearing impaired attendees.

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal’s recommendation that a book on civics be published and the subject compulsorily taught in primary schools already appears to be gaining support by participants at the inaugural Social Cohesion Roundtable.

Addressing the opening of the two-day event at the Arthur Chung International Conference Centre (ACICC), Sir Shridath singled out the teaching of civics as a major component of an overall strategy to forge a Guyanese identity based on the country’s history.

Day one ended with two of the 10 working groups reporting to a plenary session that they were in favour of the teaching of Civics in schools.

Sir Shridath said a standard textbook on Civics should be published after consultations with the teaching profession and other interested parties. “The aim should be to provide all pupils receiving primary education with a broad knowledge and appreciation of the historical and constitutional basis of the State; of its administrative, political and juridical functions; of the racial, religious, cultural and other main component elements of society and the rights and duties of citizenship with due emphasis on tolerance and cooperation,” said the former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

He said the focus of Civics should pay special attention to race and religious differences should be enriching rather than divisive.

Group Two reported that skills training centres should be established in regions other than Region Four to train persons as part of an employment and wealth creation strategy. That group also recommended that civics be taught at those centres. “We felt that what should be taught at these centres should not be only technical and vocational but the inclusion of civic studies- the ability to work with different groups of people,” said the group, adding that should help persons to be tolerant of others cultures and religions.

Group Nine, which focused on Political Participation and Governance, said Article 13 that speaks to inclusionary democracy should be included in the Civic’s textbook. “Everybody loves the Civics education proposal made this (Thursday) morning made by Shridath Ramphal and taken up by their government and we are very strong on having that done as soon as is possible so that the nation…and this should be all the way through- nursery to university and to the politicians in parliament,” said that group. Article 13 states “Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana states that: “The principal objective of the political system of the state is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organizations in the management and decision making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision making that directly affect their well being.”

Other recommendations by the groups aimed at creating a cohesive society include the reintroduction of a constituency electoral system, the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, enforcement of all race-related laws, enforcement of anti-corruption laws to all Guyanese, improvement of education and the use of Indigenous languages and East Indian and African dialects to communicate certain values. Among the other recommendations to cultivate a more cohesive Guyana were the strengthening of the Police Complaints Authority, Integrity Commission, Office of the Ombudsman, the strengthening of morals in the home and the use of arts, culture and sports.

Experts are Friday expected to refine the numerous recommendations into a draft five year strategy to build Social Cohesion in this country where some believe there are grave wealth and income disparities and racially divisive politics.