–79 schools being serviced by 2 welfare officers…teachers forced to buy school supplies out of pocketsBy Jarryl BryanIn the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services’ seventh report, troubling facts about life in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) for the year 2017 are documented; including a lack of capacity for authorities to deal with certain social ills.The Committee, which was led by Opposition Member of Parliament, Dr Vindhya Persaud, paid a visit to schools, hospitals and health centres in the region last year. On their stop over to Charity Secondary School, they were informed of problems with truancy.The Charity Secondary School“The head teacher informed the Committee that a businessman in the community was selling alcohol to school children in uniform,” the report, released last month, stated. “Even though the matter was reported to the relevant authorities, to date no action was taken.”“The Committee was also informed by the head teacher that students do not attend school regularly and that some children live alone. She stated that these cases were reported to the Police.”CV Nunes Primary SchoolBut even with the cases being reported, there are issues with the capacity of the regional authorities to address them. The Committee stated that according to a welfare officer in the region, there are 79 schools with only two welfare officers.“The teachers informed the Committee that for the past two terms, they did not receive any school supplies and would have to put their hands in their pockets to buy same. They also mentioned that it was very costly during the period of examinations to photocopy,” the Committee also recorded.RecommendationsA perusal of the 2018 Budget estimates shows that under the heading ‘Educational delivery’, monies were only set aside for ‘Buildings’. A sum of $172.8 million was allocated for school provisions, sanitary blocks and retention payments.In its recommendations, the Committee urged that counsellors be made available to all the schools. In addition, it was recommended that the welfare officers lobby for the protection of abused children.And since there were complaints of children from far flung areas not having anything to eat, the Committee recommended that all the schools be made beneficiaries of the Government’s feeding programme.“The school should have in-house staff – secretary, typist and accounts clerk – so that teachers can concentrate on their jobs, teaching. The school (in fact) should have more teachers. The school should have separate room and washroom facilities for teachers.”The Committee also recommended that the Police investigate reports of persons selling drugs and alcohol to school children. It also advised that a bus be assigned to the school to transport children.According to the Committee, the school should have a parking lot for teacher’s vehicles; in addition to the carrying out of much needed upgrades to the classrooms and the provision of essential supplies. It was also recommended that space be made to house an additional 180 students be created.Chaired by Dr Persaud, the other Opposition MPs on the Committee are Alister Charlie, Vishwa Mahadeo and Indranie Chandarpal. Sitting Government Ministers include Raphael Trotman (Natural Resources Minister), Valarie Patterson (Minister within the Communities Ministry), Dr Karen Cummings (Minister within the Public Health Ministry) and Valarie Garrido-Lowe (Minister within the Indigenous People’s Affairs Ministry).