Ministry of Education, Guyana

Social Assessment for Amerindian Peoples Plan

1) Review of the legal and institutional framework applicable to Indigenous Peoples. 

The legal and institutional framework applicable Amerindian Peoples in Guyana is governed by the Amerindian Act 2006. The Act provides "for recognition and protection of the collective rights of Amerindian Villages and Communities, the granting of land to Amerindian Villages and Communities and the promotion of good governance within Amerindian Villages and Communities". Among other things it lays out the Governance structure, composition, function and power of the Village Councils and mandate/duties of the Toshao as village representative. The Act further established the National Toshao Council (NTC). Additionally the Amerindian Act 2006 established the inalienability of village lands and the allocation and lease of lands to residents.

While there is no explicit policy that addresses any special education programme for Amerindian children in Guyana, the Ministry of Education Guyana Strategic Plan 2008 – 2013 , (p.14), indicates that, "…Compulsory education was introduced in 1876 by the colonial government and in 1976, a century later, the commitment to free education was ratified by the Government of independent Guyana. The national policy has long been to offer children, young people and other interested persons the opportunity to participate in the educational process free of cost."

The Strategic Plan continues "… Education is now compulsory for children [including Amerindian children], aged five years and nine months to 15 years. Although there are only three years of compulsory education, children are expected to remain in General Secondary and/or Community High School until they are 16 years old."

The Plan does recognize that (p. 14), "…In many developing countries and even developed countries, the most sophisticated services are found in the urban centres, as compared to rural areas where the population is almost always at a disadvantage. Guyana is no exception. Following historical trends in the country, most of the population, infrastructure, services and resources have been concentrated on the coastal areas, particularly in Georgetown. Further the geography of the country makes it difficult to travel and communicate with the relatively isolated communities of the interior, [where Amerindian peoples live]. The educational and other services provided to hinterland and deep riverain regions are clearly below the national standards."

Amerindian Lands Commission Act

The Amerindian Lands Commission Act of May 1966 was charged with, among other functions, the following;

  1. To determine the areas of Guyana where any tribe or community of Amerindians was ordinarily resident or settled on the relevant date including, in case of Amerindian Districts, Areas or Villages within the meaning the meaning of the Amerindian Act, the part, if any, of such District, Area or Village where any tribe or community of Amerindians was originally resident or settled on the relevant date, and to identify every such tribe or community with as much particularity as is practicable.
  2. To recommend, with respect to each such tribe or community of Amerindians, whether persons belonging to such tribes or community shall be given rights of tenure with respect to the areas of residence or settlement determined under paragraph (1) above or with respect to such other areas as the Commission may specify, being areas in relation to which such rights of tenure would be no less favourable to such persons that similar rights held in relation to the areas determined as aforesaid.

In 1995, the Government of Guyana, in an attempt to address Amerindian land claims formulated a policy, after consultation with Toshaos, to demarcate existing seventy four (74) legally recognized (titled) Amerindian communities and address extensions of titled communities and requests for titles by those communities without legally recognized lands (Ministry of Amerindian Affairs website).

As part of the process for enacting the Amerindian Act 2006, the Government decided to include a comprehensive procedure and criteria to address Amerindian land claims. These are outlined in Part VI of the Amerindian Act No. 6 of 2006. Unlike many other countries that require Indigenous people to show their ancestral connection with the particular piece of land being claimed, the communities in Guyana requesting titled lands are only required to show their use and occupation of the land being requested for at least 25 years and secondly the population must be at least one hundred and fifty (150) persons for the five (5) years preceding the application.

The Education Act (Cap. 39:01) speaks about education of Guyanese children generally and outlines the functions of the Education Department as well as provisions for enforcing education of children. The Education Strategic Plan 2008 – 2013 places special focus Amerindian children. "There is a significant proportion of untrained nursery and primary teachers. This is of special concern in the light of the implementation of new literacy approaches. …Indigenous/Amerindian children have even greater difficulties accessing Early Childhood Education (ECE). Approximately thirty percent of the teachers at nursery level are still untrained and the proportion of untrained teachers is much greater in remote hinterland and riverain areas (72%). …One very significant issue is the fact that although the gross enrolment ratio at the nursery level is about eighty percent, the most vulnerable groups are not being captured. These include children in 23 communities where a majority of the population is indigenous/Amerindian people. (In Region 1, for example, there are 42 villages with primary schools but there are only 21 nursery schools/classes in the Region).

The objective of Universal Secondary Education (USE) has been one of the priorities of the Government of Guyana and MOE during the last period. The country has been able to achieve what amounts to full coverage at the nursery and primary levels and now, based on the last population projection in 2010, all secondary age students in the hinterland are taking advantage of secondary education. MOE is working to establish a system that provides access to all the population of the relevant age cohort according to specific regional characteristics and needs, but regional differences in quality (between hinterland, rural/coastal and urban/coastal regions) must be reduced. The Plan states that each region has particular characteristics that demand flexibility if USE is going to be achieved. Among other areas, the Plan will focus on the following areas of USE that pertain to Amerindian communities:

  • Greater emphasis will be placed on mathematics, science and technology with the purpose of providing the young graduates with sufficient tools to be productively incorporated in the economy and to make Guyana a more competitive society.
  • The scope of the curriculum will be broadened to include areas such as the arts, sports and physical education and culture-specific skills (e.g. weaving, basketry) in Amerindian communities. These inclusions would make attendance to schools more attractive to young persons and as such contribute to lowering the drop-out rate and increasing attendance.

The Plan emphasizes the importance of partnering with relevant agencies that impact education in Guyana, including the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs. The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development is also closely related to the schools and the delivery of education in the regions. Representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture, Amerindian Affairs, Health and Local Government sit on the MOE’s School Feeding Committee and have given invaluable support to the Community-based School Feeding Programme.

Click to download the entire plan: GY SEIP - Social Assessment For Amerindian Peoples Plan (March 31, 2014)

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