Ministry of Education, Guyana

Monday, 13 December 2010 09:12

School Feeding Programme has positively impacted attendance, performance

Education Minister Shaik Baksh yesterday said that the $ 1.2 billion School Feeding Programme to alleviate hunger of poor school children in the hinterland and on the coastland has been having a positive impact on students' attendance and performance.

Speaking at a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) prize giving ceremony for a competition on the signing of a petition to end hunger held at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD), Baksh disclosed that the results were unveiled in a recent study conducted by the World Bank.

He stressed that the government is aware of the difficulties of undernourished children to learn academically and underscored initiatives such as the School Feeding Programme, the US$6M IFAD-funded Rural Enterprise and Development Project (READ), the US$21.9M IDB Agricultural Export Diversification Programme, the US$ 20M Agriculture Support Services Project (ASSP) and the "Grow More" campaign represent the political will to address the problem of hunger and food security in Guyana.

READ project aims to strengthen intermediary service providers, institutions whose services add value to production and marketing systems and improve rural welfare while the ASSP targets drainage and irrigation, Farmer education, delegation of authority to Water Users Association and construction of rice seed facilities.

He pointed out that the Ministry of Education has supported the petition as it is of the view that the importance of agriculture and its role in addressing food security has to be instilled in students at all levels in the school system. This, he said has to be done through several means including, the revival of gardens at all schools.

And on that score, Baksh said that progress is being made in this regard, noting that for the first time, four agriculture specialists has been attached full time at his ministry, three of whom have been provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The minister also reported that the number of candidates sitting the subject at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations has been steadily increasing as well as their pass rate.

In addition, the Secondary Competency Certificate Programme (SCCP) makes provision for students who are not desirous of pursuing the academic subjects to enter one of a range of technical fields, including agriculture.

According to Baksh, his ministry is moving in the right direction in the promotion of the discipline in the school system but stressed the need for a faster acceleration of these programmes.

He also mentioned that the University of Guyana (UG) should be offering a master's programme in agriculture, as research is not only necessary to further modernise the local agriculture sector but also to produce the expertise that is needed to meet the demands of that sector.

Guyana, he noted has taken on the leadership role on agriculture in the region with President Bharrat Jadgeo holding that portfolio in CARICOM. The President has also put forward the Jadgeo Initiative, a strategy paper which outlines the way forward for agriculture in the region.

The minister stressed that Guyana has been making significant strides in agriculture, noting that in a time when nations were struggling to feed their people during the food and global financial and economic crises, this country has maintained food security.

He also called for the populace to revive their kitchen gardens, consume local produce and for farmers to produce more as the opportunity is abound for them to tap into CARICOM's US$3.5B annual food import bill.

Ministry of Agriculture Trade Specialist, Johan David lauded the schools that participated in the competition, pointing out that the youths will be the movers and shakers of agriculture and more of them have to be involved for the future of agriculture to be secured.

The issue of hunger, she said is everybody's business and all must join the fight, not only through talk but collective action to arrest this scourge which affects most women and children.

FAO Resident Representative Dr. Lystra Fletcher Paul said the competition was part of a global programme to raise awareness of the some one billion people who suffer from hunger every day.

She said that the fight against hunger does not end with the petition as the next step is to do something about the issue.

Some 6,000 Guyanese joined the petition, 4500 of whom were students, Fletcher Paul reported. The FAO Representative also used the opportunity to commend the Ministry of Agriculture for its tremendous effort to advance agriculture in Guyana and to Minister Baksh for his role in getting more schools involved in the discipline.

She too appealed to youths to get involved in agriculture and called for an exchange of information on, agriculture tools and produce as gifts, particularly during the Christmas season.

Several schools throughout the country that participated in the competition were presented with certificates and trophies.

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