…calls for multi-stakeholder approach to ongoing issueGiven the recent release of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services’ seventh report, which points to several social ills that continue to plague several communities in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Regional Democratic Council (RDC) Chairman Devanand Ramdatt is calling for a multi-stakeholder approach to addressing these ongoing issues.One of the most burning issues that were highlighted in the report is the fact that truancy remained a major issue. Ramdatt said having recognised that a number of students were not attending school regularly, the RDC had called for a stakeholder approach to address truancy, from the level of the RDC.Region Two Chairman Devanand Ramdatt“We recommended that the Department of Education through its welfare section, that officers engage the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs)…and have outreaches with parents and to have consultation to encourage them to send their children to school,” he explained.Beyond that, Ramdatt explained that there were certain targeted communities that he believed required more attention than others, such as Charity, Lima Sands and Red Village. He said in any ideal situation, more social workers and welfare officers were needed to assist with these societal issues.“But in the short term, I think based on these outreaches, when reports come in, we will have a better understanding as to what are the factors creating a situation that students cannot attend school and more so why they are not attending school regularly,” he explained.An observation made by the Regional Chairman is the fact that several families are now returning from Venezuela and their children are also coming with them. Therefore, there is an immediate need to have them get birth certificates which will assist them in getting registered with local schools.“My suggestion to the Department of Education is they can bring the social protection and child protection officers…These officers need to engage more families and have a clearer understanding as to what the situation is and how and why is it that these children are not going to school because most of these schools are there, so transportation may not be one of the major factors,” he added.The regional official noted also that the aim is to work along with parents and to see whatever support they require and try as best as possible to find solutions to these major concerns.Ramdatt said he had formally mentioned this in the presence of a regional education officer at the last statutory meeting of the RDC. The clerk is expected to follow up with these matters.“So the decision was concertised 13th March since then we haven’t had a meeting to have the status,” he said.A perusal of the 2018 Budget estimates reveals 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 added.The Committee also recommended that the Police investigate reports of persons selling drugs and alcohol to schoolchildren. It also advised that a bus be assigned to Charity school to transport children.According to the Committee, the school should have a parking lot for teachers’ vehicles and 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.The Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services is chaired by Dr Vindhya Persaud; the other Opposition Members of Parliament on the Committee are Alister Charlie, Vishwa Mahadeo and Indranie Chandarpal with sitting Government Ministers Raphael Trotman, Valerie Patterson, Dr Karen Cummings and Valerie Garrido-Lowe among the other members.