CXC should build requisite competencies for content of each subject area


By Annan Boodram

We note, with interest, the appeal by Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the CXC, Dr Wayne Wesley, re “We need to find an approach that creates an appropriate balance, that allows students to demonstrate the critical competencies required to function in society, and help them to apply to any content, rather than focusing on the syllabus content…In this regard, the current thinking around the development of examination is to have a greater focus on the appropriate balance between critical competences and content coverage.”
But shouldn’t it be the role of the CXC to build in the requisite competencies for the content of each subject area, along with relevant skills sets? As a regional body funded by tax payers’ money, the CXC should have both the expertise and the regional mindset to be able to do so.
Once this is provided by the CXC, Ministries of Education must then train teachers to be able to underpin the content with related competencies and skills, and in instructional methodologies and related expertise to be able to deliver accordingly – perhaps a Train the Trainer programme, so those trained can then turnkey the training to their colleagues across each nation.
Perhaps both the CXC and Ministries of Education can analyse syllabuses of developed nations, especially New York City in the US, to grasp how all three can be married – content, competencies and skill sets.
There are many Caribbean teachers in the US, especially New York City, with the capacity and competency to assist, and The Caribbean Voice can be of assistance in this respect.

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Continued domestic violence suggests that something is not working


By Dave Daniel-Ramdass

Something I have long argued for is that perpetrators should be in safe houses and women living in their family homes. Domestic Violence is a crisis that has been flashing red in Guyana and across the Caribbean. The evidence is domestic violence is widely prevalent and stubbornly resistant to the various interventions on offer by authorities and entities operating in this area.Guyana has a legislative framework underpinned by the Domestic Violence Act, Sexual Violence Act and some of the most comprehensive systems, processes and guidance. Yet, “the first national survey on gender-based violence revealed that more than half (55%) of all women experienced at least one form of violence. More than one in ten has experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a male partner in the past 12 months” Something is not working. Something needs to change. Supporting victims of domestic abuse is important but this will not change the perpetrator’s behaviour.

 We know from evidence the perpetrator’s narrative “ my dad used to beat me up, my dad used to beat my mum up, and I thought it was normal just to beat people up if they make you angry”. “Violence is normalised, drugs is normalised, crime is normalised and that is how people live for generations”. So what if the perpetrator was treated like the victim, offered a safe house, cognitive behaviour therapy, rehabilitation and the required support under supervision of the authorities.  What if this approach became a first response for handling domestic abuse in the family home? To end violent behaviour you have to find and address the source. It is not as simple as getting women to leave and punishing the perpetrator. It’s about therapy and behavioural change. One way to measure behavioural change is to look at reoffending rates. To support my argument I will cite the findings of the ground breaking Ghandi Nivas five year study undertaken in New Zealand by Massey University (2020) which offers conclusive evidence that using an early intervention therapeutic approach reduces reoffending. The study concluded that 57.5% of men did not reoffend after engaging with Gandhi Nivas services.

So, in Guyana we have 55% of women facing up to domestic violence from men whilst this study shows over 55% of men with a history of violence towards women did not reoffend. Gandhi Nivas was launched in 2014 in Counties Manukau, Auckland, to meet the counselling and housing needs of men who are bound by Police Safety Orders (PSOs) and cannot return to their homes. PSOs came into operation in July 2010 to provide police with a means to immediately improve the safety of persons at risk of family violence. The Report, titled, Gandhi Nivas 2014-2019: A statistical description of client demographics and involvement in Police recorded Family Violence occurrences is a widely available publication. I am hopeful that policy makers in Guyana and across the Caribbean can look to the future with this kind of service model: fully funded, fully staffed and fully evaluated. We need to recognise that many countries are redefining domestic violence as hostage taking and terrorism. Our women deserve to be free from both.

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A unit on domestic violence should come from this police training initiative


The first batch of police officers recently graduating from the “COPSQUAD2000” initiative on how to handle domestic violence should set the stage for the reengineering of police training. With this training should come a DV unit that would ensure structure, monitoring, evidence gathering, evaluation and accountability. Such a unit should incorporate:

●             Taking every report seriously and eliminating police laughing at and mocking complainants, causing them to be fearful and angry, ridiculing them and telling them to go home and make up with their spouse. This kind of behaviour has resulted in too many victims simply refusing to report to the police claiming it’s a waste of time. As well who knows how many lives may have been lost by this attitude. To be noted also is that domestic violence is significant in police families but deeply hidden, as victims do not think reporting to the police station would get them anywhere, a perspective fostered by the perpetrators. Often victims seek escape by migrating illegally to other countries, but The Caribbean Voice is also aware of many instances whereby the perpetrators – police officers – abuse and threaten families of their victims.

●             Interaction with complainants using the right language and tone; perhaps emphatic communication should be added to the “COPSQUAD2000” training. The expectation is to eliminate the language currently used as referenced in the above paragraph.

●             Investigations and follow up that would see perpetrators prosecuted and reports not ducked because of bribery, as often happens, or police, themselves, not acting as mediators after perpetrators buy them off. As well consideration should be given to a mechanism that would ensure that cases still go to court even if victims refuse to testify and for this to be possible necessary photos, medical assessments and eyewitness interviews ought to be part of the investigation, which must be timely. The fact is that victims are sometimes bought off, threatened along with their families or both.

●             Safety planning advice and referrals for needed services. Safety planning needs to be disseminated as it provides victims with the capacity to seek escape and assistance while keeping themselves and children safe and protected. And the services available, especially those offered by various ministries, need to be known and utilized by victims. As it is, this is not the case currently.

Police also need to be trained to deal with the mentally ill as is the case in Jamaica where there is also a push to have selected police personnel trained as emergency medical technicians to enhance their ability to help the mentally ill. Guyana should also incorporate same as part of the mental health training. In fact, police training should significantly focus on case care management models for mental health overall. As well isn’t it time for the police to create a child abuse unit within the force? The police is already part of the inter-disciplinary team that works along with the child advocacy centers so it would be an extension of that training to ensure such officers are available at every police station.

We also suggest training of police to handle sexual abuse. For one they should ensure that all complainants of rape and incest be immediately taken to hospitals where one would expect that rape kits are available for the relevant tests. They should also be able to take needed photos to be used as evidence and urgently get counseling for complainants. As well they must be able to use the right language and tone to question victims and this is where emphatic communication comes into play. Perhaps domestic violence and sexual abuse can be combined into a victim services and support unit.

We also suggest that a drugs and alcohol abuse and addiction initiative such as would be implemented in Trinidad & Tobago in partnership with the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) that includes the police. Such a model can be implemented in partnership with NGOs, CBOs, governmental agencies and possibly the private sector. And to ensure that the police are mentally and emotionally equipped to do their job may we suggest that each division have at least two counselors along with mobile counseling units in each of the seven divisions so the police can receive psychosocial support year round, on an ongoing basis. This would ensure that suicide ideation, domestic violence, sexual harassment and alcohol and drugs issues are addressed in a timely manner while police are provided with the wherewithal to enhance self-esteem, stress management, coping skills, relationship issues, abuse of every shade and work conditions.

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Critical importance of teachers


By Annan Boodram

As a lifelong teacher, who has taught both in Guyana and the US, I applaud the measures announced recently by the Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand; to wit, low-cost health and life insurance coverage, a revolving mortgage fund for teachers to access up to $12 million in financing, discounts at over 150 businesses, and the establishment of a Teacher Benevolence Fund.

As well, the reinstatement of the annual National Teachers’ Award with increased prizes and an inaugural teachers’ conference geared at capacity building and networking are welcome signs. If not yet considered, may I also suggest that ongoing professional development (PD) and psychosocial care be built into this new approach going forward?

At a minimum, all teachers should be trained in differentiated instructions, classroom management without corporal punishment, cultivating emotive connections, emphatic communication, conflict resolution, and mandatory reporting of all forms of abuse and violence relating to students. The offer by The Caribbean Voice, made several years ago, to provide “train the trainer” training with respect to some or all of these issues, is still on the table.
Perhaps also schools should be mandated to have at least one professional development session each month. And a mechanism should be in place to facilitate the development of master teachers, whose pedagogical training, enhanced by periodic training organised by the Ministry of Education, would enable them to lead the PD sessions at their schools. In this respect also, consideration should be given to a one-year mentorship for each entry level teacher, for which a cadre of retired teachers can be co-opted.

As well, teachers’ self-care, self-esteem, coping skills and stress management must be focused on via an ongoing schema. I recall some years ago, when The Caribbean Voice had invested in psychosocial workshops in collaboration with the Guyana Teachers Union, teachers were ecstatic that their psychosocial needs were finally been addressed. Perhaps a similar collaboration can be put in place involving the GTU, the Ministry and the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health, along with local NGOs with the requisite capacity and scope.

In this process, students must not be left out. The much-lamented lack of counsellors in every school requires urgent attention, even if one counsellor serves more than one school initially. Unlike when The Caribbean Voice started lobbying for this in 2014, today there are enough individuals with at least a bachelor in psychology degree. Perhaps the Ministry can work with UG to finally launch the master’s in psychology, which was announced since 2017, and for which Dr Katija Khan of the University of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago, was the consultant. With this in place, counsellors with a first degree can then be facilitated to obtain their masters perhaps via weekend and holiday classes.

This process of healthy minds in health bodies will be incomplete without the involvement of parents. Recently, the Ministry’s Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) launched the “Every Child Safe Campaign”, which was crafted with the intention of engaging communities in efforts to create safe environments for children. One component of this effort could be the harnessing of Parent-Teachers Associations to organise regular parenting sessions that would not only address child abuse, but also the broader issue of parenting overall, as well as relationship dysfunction, including lack of emphatic communication. Providing parents with the requisite knowledge and the skill sets would empower them to aspire towards zero violence homes and communities, and for healthy, functional relationships within homes, both between parents and with their children.

This is also where teachers’ conflict resolution and mandatory reporting of all forms of abuse and violence relating to students assume critical importance. Such training would enable teachers to diffuse conflicts among students at schools as well as become part of the system to identify child abuse and report them to requisite authorities. And perhaps, since the goal is not to punish parents willy-nilly nor arbitrarily remove children from their homes, school counsellors can play a part in dealing with identified abuse, at least on the entry point on a ladder of intervention. Also, in respect to conflict resolution, consideration could be given to peer mediation in schools, as often children respond well to intervention by their peers.

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A point of view on mental health


By Devv Ramdas – The Caribbean Voice Technical Team

Picture for a moment: you have a physical illness and your doctor tells you your treatment will be based on archaic, out of date guidelines and principles, rather than modern procedures based on international standards. You have no choice, you will be deprived of your liberty and your rights taken away, if you don’t comply. Imagine the outcry, protest from the public and professions, and using all means necessary to challenge what is being done to you.
Yet, there has been a deafening silence from the public, professionals and advocates over the years, when it comes to mental health. In Guyana, it seems mental health is viewed by many as a Cinderella service, of low priority, underfunded and not deserving of advocacy. Even the Attorney General in a press report in Guyana Times, August 28, 2021, has reiterated that mental health prior to incarceration must be assessed. That’s the reality of psychiatric care for many in Guyana, today. You can be detained without an assessment.


To understand what is happening today, we must reflect on the inactions of past, the failure of various authorities and a lack of vision by policy makers to reform the mental health legislative framework – The Mental Health Ordinance of 1930.
Thirty years ago, The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) – the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) (1990) adopted the Declaration of Caracas. This Declaration states that national legislation must be redrafted if necessary, so that, the human and civil rights of mentally ill patients are safeguarded. This should be applied without any discrimination of any kind, to all persons who are admitted to a mental health facility.
Countries should implement these principles through appropriate legislative, judicial, administrative, educational and other measures, which they shall review periodically. Thirty years later, after people with mental ill health have been stigmatised, labelled and described as deranged and idiots, the Ordinance of 1930 is being redrafted by Guyana Government.
So what of the future? I am hopeful the redrafted bill will include the voice of the user, people with mental ill health who have experience in using mental health services. That the redrafted bill has:
• a charter of mental health rights to counter the discrimination, inequality and stigma prevalent in Guyanese society today;
• a mental health commission is created to supervise, monitor and carry out audits on detained mental health patients with an easily accessible appeals process.
• a safeguarding agency to protect rights, preserve safety and promote best practice in terms of assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of people with mental ill health both in hospitals, community residential services, in the public and private sectors.
• a centralised training analysis and matrix developed, to ensure people are supported by staff and agencies that have the appropriate and relevant knowledge and core skills to do the job for which they are employed.
Aside from the redrafted bill, Chapter 8:01 Section 96 of the Criminal Offences Act needs reform too, as it criminalises people with mental ill health who attempt suicide. It’s ironic that by seeking help you are potentially committing a crime on a Government sponsored hotline. That is why mental health in Guyana needs root and branch reform, and the redrafted bill is a good place to start.

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“Light a Candle” and “Cycle the Globe” during Suicide Prevention Month


NEW YORK, NEW YORK — World Suicide Prevention Month is once again here and, as usual, the Caribbean Voice (TCV) joins with the International Society for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to encourage participation in its two global activities: “Light a Candle” and “Cycle the Globe”.

“Light a Candle” is an initiative that encourages people globally to light a candle, or a diya, near a window on September 10 at 8pm. TCV echoes this call and is urging people everywhere to join in this effort to remember those who died by suicide and to honor those who survived.

A flyer for initiatives being held during World Suicide Prevention Month 2021. (CARIBBEAN VOICE)

“Cycle the Globe” urges individuals to register at https://register.enthuse.com/ps/event/cyclearoundtheglobe2021 and between September 10 and October 10 ride a cycle, whether mobile or stationary, as often as possible, then total and enter the distance on the same website. During the cycling, participants can wear the suicide prevention ribbon, which is usually orange, and/or carry a placard with the theme for this year’s Suicide Prevention Month, “Creating Hope Through Action”.

All distances will be totaled and publicized; last year, that amounted to twice around the globe.

TCV kicked off Suicide Prevention Month, observed in September, with the launch of a suicide prevention campaign at Cane Grove, Guyana, from August 30 to September 2 in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the government one-stop shop investment agency (GOINVEST), at which individuals were trained as suicide prevention gatekeepers.

The campaign will continue with the trainees distributing 3,000 info leaflets to households to sensitize them about suicide prevention. They will also put up a number of full color, glossy posters in high-traffic areas. This campaign will be taken to other parts of Guyana and other Caribbean nations over the next three years.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, TCV will hold a two-hour virtual panel discussion on “Prevention Suicide” from 6-8pm, New York City time, with panelists drawn from across the Caribbean and diaspora. The panel discussion will be live on TCV’s FB page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/suicideepidemic.

A similar panel discussion to be held in Barbados on the same day will include representatives of TCV on the panel.

Meanwhile, TCV is urging individuals to take photos or videos as they light their candles and post on its FB page or email to caribvoice@aol.com, along with names and address. All photos and videos will be also posted as a collage on TCV’s website caribvoice@aol.com.

During the month, TCV Team Barbados will also launch a Train the Trainer Suicide Prevention Gatekeepers’ program in Barbados in collaboration with the Barbados Youth Advance Corp and other stakeholders.

For information and participation in these various observances, events and activities email caribvoice@aol.com, what’s app 646-461-0574.

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World Suicide Prevention Day


WSPD

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Message from The Caribbean Voice


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Use cricket to help address domestic violence


The Caribbean Voice is aware that the focus by sports these days is on Black Lives Matter. However, in the Caribbean, gender based violence is reaching crisis proportions and cricket can be a powerful instrument to help address domestic violence. Thus, The Caribbean Voice is requesting Cricket West Indies (CWI) to also have team members and possibly visiting teams demonstrate some sort of support for anti-abuse and anti-femicide; as well, perhaps a prominent anti-abuse banner at every venue where matches are played and anti-abuse messaging by commentators and players during commentaries. This could be an ongoing campaign running concurrently with whatever else.

Additionally, since sports stars are listened to and generally have large followings on social media, perhaps sports associations regionally, including Olympic Committees, can get these stars to become spokespersons for social issues such as suicide, child abuse, sex abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism drug use trafficking in persons and the like. At the individual level sports stars can also chime on their own or in collaboration with their sponsors and companies for which they have endorsements.  As well teams and players at local levels can be a part of advocacy and activism process. Abuse and violence are growing problems within our communities and nations and thus everyone has roles to play in addressing them as we seek to make Caribbean societies less violent and less abusive if not abuse and violence free.

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