A recent article in the media mentioned that a certain NGO has received permission from the Ministry of Education to go to all schools in Guyana to deliver training with respect to drugs and alcohol use. That is indeed highly commendable and we do wish them every success. But we also sincerely hope that the training includes the provision of the mental wherewithal for students to be able to say ‘no’ to drugs and alcohol. As well, one would expect that not only will teachers be trained to help in this respect but that a set of teachers in every school will be prepared to turnkey the training to new teachers and to parents. The bottom line is to ensure that all stakeholders are part of the process and that the information and skill sets are not phased out over time so that this current endeavour does not become a piecemeal Band-Aid.
Some years ago, The Caribbean Voice had reached out to the Ministry of Education to seek similar permission to deliver our youth and student workshops that focused on mental health in general, including such issues as building self-esteem, developing coping skills, child and sex abuse, living in a home with domestic violence, self-harm including cutting and suicide ideation, bullying, safe use of the Internet, as well as drugs and alcohol use. We were told that no NGO could be given permission for all schools but that we would have to apply for permission on a school-by-school basis. And since our training is always delivered free of cost, all schools had to do were to cover cost of training materials.
At that time, our Youth & Student Workshops had already been delivered and well received at many private schools and to a number of youth groups. As well many public schools had also requested our services but the principals requested that TCV sought permission from the Ministry of Education. And the Ministry of Education was so impressed by the training curriculum that they promised to incorporate it into their Health and family Life Curricula, supposedly offered in schools.
From inception, TCV has made strenuous attempts to ensure that we are not aligned politically, ethnically, culturally, ideologically or religiously not only because our members reflect the gamut of politics, ethnicity, culture, ideology and religion but also because we work with people across all these demarcations, although our advocacy has sometimes being affixed various labels over the years, depending on who’s doing the labelling. In fact, at one time most of our then Guyana-based members were highly apprehensive of our advocacy as they felt that their jobs could be jeopardised, given that most of what is advocated for falls into the realm of Government undertaking.
In any case, if there are conditions to be met for us to be accorded permission, TCV certainly was not informed of any such in our many meetings with Ministry of Education officials and we do have the emails and reports to prove this. So our question is this: does the Ministry of Education operate on the basis of ‘different strokes for different folks when it comes to delivery of much-needed mental health training in schools?’