Large number of Spanish-speaking migrant schoolchildren in Region Three

Last Updated on Wednesday, 6 September 2023, 15:18 by Denis Chabrol

Migrants from Venezuela, and Trinidad and Tobago are contributing to a rise in the population of Region Three (West Demerara-Essequibo Islands), resulting in government having to cater for increasing school populations there, according to officials.

President Irfaan Ali said the more than 1,000 Spanish-speaking children in schools there comes at a time when government was forging ahead with plans to make Spanish a commonly used language in Guyana. “More importantly for us in this region, you have more than 1,000 children who are Spanish speakers now being enrolled in the school system in this region. That is a very complex task for the Ministry of Education. It brings with it tremendous challenges but also brings with it tremendous opportunities,” he said at the opening of the newly-built Victoria Lily Primary School, Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo.

Chief Education Officer, Saddam Hussain said the school, which is graded ‘C’ because it has a capacity of 330 students, would be teaching Spanish from Grades 1 to 5.

Dr Ali forecasts that the decision to make Spanish Guyana’s second language would be recognised as a key transformative decision in another 15 years. “We are doing ourselves a severe injustice by being on the South American continent and not having Spanish as an important second language,” he said.

Region Three Chairman Sheik Ayube said the population of West Demerara-Essequibo Islands was growing because “a lot of people” were returning from Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. He said that was “forcing us to find space for these children in an educational institution.”  He said more people from other areas of Guyana were also moving to Region Three “because of the economic growth” there.

Education Minister Priya Manickchand said at one time the Ministry of Education had to find ways of catering for hundreds of migrant children. “We had become the home for over 750 new children in the system who are from migrant families and so that, in addition to the overcrowding that was happening before, we had to cater in a humane way for these new children also,” he said.

She said there were plans to build more primary schools at Arthurville, Recht-Dor-Zee and another in Tuschen- all in Region Three.  “The most massive infrastructure buildout that you have ever seen so that we can make our children comfortable,” she said.