Primary School Years
Indicators for school enrolment shows that nearly all of Guyana’s children between 6 to 9 years attend school regularly.With almost universal access to primary education and a 95 per cent and 85 per cent completion rates for grades 5 and 6, respectively, Guyana is well on the road to achieve the MDG relating to primary education. However significant geographical disparities persist, such as in the hinterland regions -region 1, where grade 5 and 6 completion rates are 57 per cent for males and 60 per cent for females. In general, there is little gender disparity and in almost all cases girls do better than boys. In other hinterland Regions of 8 and 9, average repetition rates are 15 per cent for boys and 10 per cent for girls, whereas in the coastal Regions of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 these are 3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively. The major challenge facing Guyanese children is the quality of education and relevance of the curriculum. An estimated 33 per cent of children completing sixth grade have not acquired basic literacy skills. A sample survey done in 2002 of out-of-school youths aged 14-25 estimated that 20 per cent was absolutely illiterate.
Guyana’s proposal for inclusion in the Education For All –Fast Track Initiative – EFA-FTI gained approval and was among the first to have had funds committed to its programme. The Netherlands committed 2.2 Million Euros for the first year of the plan 2003.
Recognising that Guyana’s major obstacle in education is the disparity in the quality of education offered between the hinterland and the coastland schools, the its EFA-FTI strategy is neatly packaged under 3 initiatives: Improving the Quality of the Teaching Force in the Hinterland, Enhancing the teaching Learning Environment in Primary schools and Strengthening School Community Partnerships. Guyana seems well on the road to achieving the 100 % access to quality basic education by 2015. At the end of 2006 (The EFA-FTI programme actually started in 2004), 11 satellite learning centres have been established for teachers within school clusters) in the hinterland, remote area incentives have been disbursed to teachers who have committed themselves to working in the hinterland, 11 schools have been upgraded and the strong collaboration between the Ministries of Health, agriculture and Education in the training of community members for the school feeding programme; the production of text books have been the achievements of the programme thus far.
Poor parenting strategies, absentee parents, child heads of household, the lack of adequate, age appropriate recreational activities/avenues and the lack of child care facilities are serious threats to quality child care in the primary years. In some cases, children are forced to adopt adult roles when they must supplement family income.
UNICEF’s advocacy and technical support in structured parent education with a life cycle approach, to legislative reforms and re-focus on the strategies for child friendly initiatives especially in day care and other institutional support programmes, are interventions intended to reverse the dilemma Guyanese children face regarding quality child care.