Mahdia, Guyana (October 08, 2017) Coordinator of the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Ms. Sharon Patterson, last Friday afternoon, encouraged students to accept responsibility for Guyana’s future by taking up the mantle for change and transformation in the nation. Ms. Patterson gave this charge to the students of Mahdia at a special Social Cohesion Sensitisation session, which was held specifically for young people, at the Mahdia Secondary School in Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight).

Ms. Patterson opened the session by pointing out that diversity in social cohesion does not only mean celebrating diversity, but that it also means nurturing individual and community relationships in order to promote unity… ”When we talk about cohesion, we talk about harmony. We talk about peace. We talk about working together. It is about people coming together in order to fulfil a common goal or a [common] purpose,” she said.

Explaining that when one demographic of the population is left out, the entire country suffers, Ms. Patterson encouraged the students to actively seek after inclusion and togetherness. Following a hand-in-hand exercise with the students she told them that, “[just as] everyone is needed to complete the circle, everyone is needed, by the same token, if we are to build and to develop [Guyana]. So [if] everybody does not participate… [whatever] is happening is fractured or disrupted in one way or the other. That is why we need each other.”

Regional Chairman, Mr. Bonaventure Fredericks provided a practical and familiar explanation for social cohesion. “To summarise everything that has been said so far, social cohesion is simply living the motto of our country, ‘One people, One nation, One destiny’. That’s all,” he said.” Mr. Fredericks also emphasised how crucial young people are in the adoption of socially cohesive practices for the betterment of Guyana as a whole. “The school is the best place to practice and live social cohesion… To live, to eat, to play, [and] to work together [means that] we will have a very good community. We will have a very good country,” he said.

District Educational Officer for Region Eight, Mr. Lionel Jacobus encouraged the students to take advantage of the lessons they learn during the session. “I just quickly want to encourage you students to take in whatever information you will receive this afternoon… When we talk about social cohesion… [we talk about] solidarity. We talk about inclusiveness and fairness. As pupils of Mahdia Secondary School, you will see [that] as long as you have these ideas in your head, you will be able to live in harmony,” he said.

Graduate Head Teacher of Mahdia Secondary School, Ms. Shauneille Jourdain, said that the students have already shown a natural tendency to celebrate diversity among each other in the classroom. “We would find them coming together especially when we have activities like Amerindian Heritage Month celebration. We see them embracing each other’s culture,” she said. Ms. Jourdain also described her plans to continue the promotion of social cohesion with her students. “As Ms. Patterson was speaking, I was thinking about [implementing] the Culture Fest that she spoke about. In order to promote social cohesion we can have this Culture Fest [on a] Saturday. We [will] have different booths representing the different ethnic groups where [they will have] displays of food, [cultural] wear … and [a history] of the different races,” she said.

Many of the students expressed their desire for the addition of sports clubs in Mahdia. Eleventh Grade student, Mr. Shawn Williams explained how helpful sports can be in fostering a socially cohesive society. “More interaction means more people getting to socialise with others and getting to understand how other people feel. Your interaction with them will build a bond. You can be more communicative with people and their life and come together to achieve a certain goal… For example, [in] soccer we all participate and play the game to win,” he said.

The Social Cohesion Sensitisation session, only the second of its kind, which is specifically targeted to youth, featured a cultural song and dance performed by the students of Mahdia Secondary School. The Ministry’s Sensitisation programmes are geared toward increasing awareness on issues concerning diversity throughout the nation.

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