Georgetown, Guyana- (July, 27, 2015) With Social Cohesion consultations continuing in Region 6 yesterday, Minister of Social Cohesion, Ms. Amna Ally says she believes schools countrywide can and should play a greater role in addressing this matter. The Minister and her team met with residents of Corriverton and other surrounding communities at the Skeldon High School. The second meeting was held at the Guyana Teachers Union Hall, New Amsterdam.

Emphasizing the role schools can play in bringing about social cohesion, the Minister pointed to guidance and counselling both of which she said have not been so vibrant in schools over recent years.  According to Minister Ally, instilling the message of unity and strength in diversity in children from a very early age will go a far way in bringing about national unity.

“I believe that the education system has a major role to play in this business of social cohesion…I believe that if we start programmes, for example, with our nursery school children they will understand the importance of not hating somebody who doesn’t look like him or her.”  With the message of unity imparted at such an early age, Minister Ally said, it will aid in children accepting all races, and religion as part of the social landscape of Guyana.

 “We must be able to eradicate these barriers; race, religion, sex, social origin, they must have no part, we must have no barriers going forward, and I believe that we can start those at the level at the nursery school and we can have a lot of that happening in schools.”

Residents, who attended the two meetings, expressed similar sentiments and called for programmes to be specifically designed for schools.

 One resident, Michelle Austin said, “Social Cohesion is something new to me.  What I understand is the racial barrier and if we can fox the racial barrier then we would fix all the other problems that are holding back Guyana. So I think if we implement some sort of programme in the school with teachers, probably the teachers can help.” Shalimar Smith added, “We should implement culture day in all the schools, and during the athletic period at some point in the branch level or the national level, [we can have] inter-school culture day.”

 Meanwhile Coordinator of the Programme, Ms. Roxanne Myers, in summing up the two days of town hall styled meetings, said thus far the initiative has been well received.  Noting that in some communities persons are still in the process of familiarizing themselves with the topic, their main concerns are other issues that affect their day-to-day life.

 “They haven’t raised a social cohesion issue per say but for us it is an issue, because social cohesion means people are working together and living together in harmony and in so far if people are not happy with their personal and individual life then we can’t expect them to ‘cohese’ with other members of the community,” she said.

 Going forward, Ms. Myers said, the Ministry has taken notes from each meeting with the aim of passing the information onto the relevant agencies to have the issues address. Some of the issues raised include poor infrastructure, social protection issues and challenges in agriculture.

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