IN an effort to ensure that every child is equipped and prepared with the right skills, competence, and knowledge after they graduate from school, the Ministries of Education and Agriculture hosted a two-day “hands-on” aquaculture workshop at the Satyadeow Sawh Aquaculture Station in Mon Repos, on the East Coast of Demerara.

The two-day workshop, which ended on Wednesday, was attended by several teachers from the different regions throughout Guyana.

Speaking with the Guyana Chronicle, Donald Richards from the Port Kaituma Secondary School in Region One (Barima Waini) said that he is currently working with the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) class in his school and this initiative by the government will “greatly” benefit him, his students, and his fellow teachers.

Teachers filleting fish and cleaning crabs during the two-day workshop

“I was very excited when I learned of this workshop. We in the hinterland are not exposed to many practical activities as it relates to agriculture, so this was a plus for me and my students. CVQ has now enabled us to be more practical rather than just in the classroom setting, and I am so happy about that. The culture of Port Kaituma is one of a pre-vocational setting, and that is why I am so happy to take back my skills and knowledge to share with the children,” the Region One teacher said.
Richards also said that he is confident that his students will be “very excited” to learn and be a part of what he has to impart to them.

Donald Richards from Port Kaituma Secondary School in Region One

“When it comes to any practical lessons, the children are always happy to get involved, so I know that with this new skill in aquaculture, the processing of the fish and every other aspect that I have learned will be something that I will be taking back with me, and will definitely capture their interests,” he said.

The teacher further related that he has noticed that some of the children from the Port Kaituma community are at a great disadvantage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the schools to be closed. According to him, some of them are not as academically inclined as others, but they are very skilled.

“I have seen since the pandemic that the children in my community have a lot of difficulty in reading and writing, but I’ve noticed that they would have preferred the more practical aspect; they are able to grasp the concept more than the theory. So, this is one important reason why this type of activity is important, and I would like to thank President Ali, Minister Manickchand, and Minister Mustapha for ensuring that we teachers are a part of these important exercises.

“The skills that students will receive because of such programmes will be ongoing, and they will make a better life for themselves. I would also like to thank all those who made it possible for me to be here from Region One. When I get back during our staff development session, I will definitely share my experience and knowledge with my fellow teachers so that they can help their students as well,” Richards said.

Another teacher from the Westminster Secondary School in Region Three (Essequibo Islands, West Demerara), Sherwin Beaton, said: “These two days’ workshop has benefitted me and the fellow teachers a lot…Without coming here, we didn’t do much or anything at all, but now we are fully aware and equipped so that we can now go back into our school systems, practice, and deliver on what we have learned so that our students can benefit, and I know that they will be excited for this. We now have first-hand experience from our instructor, who was very helpful during the process.”

Beaton said that he is grateful to the Government of Guyana for including the CVQ programme into the school system.
He said: “CVQ is the way to go. I can say that the students are more interested in the practical aspect of learning. I would like to ask the Minister of Agriculture to have a lot more of these practical activities so that our students and Guyanese can get a better understanding of the skills that are needed in Agriculture Science.”

Melissa Williams, teacher at Dolphin Secondary in Georgetown

Melissa Williams, teacher at Dolphin Secondary in Georgetown, said: “I would like to say that this exercise was very important as well as very informative to us all. We pay more attention to poultry rearing and crop cultivation in Georgetown, but we don’t usually focus on fish culture or aquaculture, so this experience was a great one, and I can say that I have learned far more than I expected. I will be looking forward to sharing this knowledge with my students and fellow teachers as well, so as to benefit them. I am asking that the ministries provide us with other hands-on training and the necessary materials so that we can help our students to be better people in society after they leave school.”

The Agriculture Officer attached to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Unit, Yonette Crandon said that she and the teachers have done a total of 15 different practical activities over the past two days, all of which she said covered the three occupational areas of fish handling and processing, technical aspects, and harvesting.

Crandon said: “I must say that the teachers were excited; they loved the knowledge that they received. They didn’t realise how much they didn’t know, but they were very receptive to learning, even though the days were hot. The teachers showed how elated they were, and they enjoyed every step and process that were taught. When you find that teachers are excited, most naturally, the students will be, because our teachers will take this same energy from them.

“This is not a one-off programme but a continuous one, and we have only trained teachers from 29 secondary schools out of the 126 secondary schools in Guyana. So, for the next batch of teachers that will be trained next year, we are looking to include 50 schools, which means more teachers.”