…Education Ministry sets up Migrant Support Unit to assist more children
Emily Vaamonde – Beria copped 515 marks at this year’s National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) emerging as the top student at the Crane Primary School located on the West Coast of Demerara (WCD). She earned a place at Queen’s College which she has always wanted to attend.
The 12-year-old said she expected to do well but not to be at the top of her batch. “I feel very happy that I could’ve done so well. It was my expectation, but I did not expect to do so well,” Emily said after learning of her results in October.
“We are very proud and happy. We know we would have done good because we always give her the support and encourage her to work very hard in her education,” her father Brayan Vaamonde said.
Emily is Venezuelan by birth; she was placed at the Crane Primary School in 2018 when she emigrated to Guyana with her parents and younger sibling. At the time, she was eight years old and her only exposure to the English language came from her Guyanese parents while living in the Spanish-speaking country.
At first, she said “It was a bit hard with the language barrier and to understand some of the subjects,” but Emily quickly learned the English words she did not understand and became a translator for other migrant students at her school.
In fact, her headteacher, Ms. Vashti Paul noted that Emily is often called upon by teachers to communicate with other Venezuelan students. “She was always happy to do so,” Ms. Paul said. She further praised the young scholar as being an example of an excellent pupil.
“She excels at everything she embarks upon intentional or unintentionally. She is self-confident and self-motivated. She is a well-rounded pupil, involved in academic as well as co-curricular activities. Throughout her years at the Crane Primary School, she has always been the pupil that achieves the highest percentage in her class,” the teacher added.
The 12-year-old has since obtained her Guyanese citizenship but is working to become a lawyer to assist other migrants relocating to Guyana. “I would like to be a lawyer to help people like me, fight for their freedom and justice; some are awaiting their citizenship while some are waiting to get into schools,” she noted.
To help students like Emily, the Ministry of Education in June 2021 established its Risk Management and Migrant Support Section (RM&MSS). The Unit is responsible for placing, monitoring, and supporting children in crisis-stricken communities, along with the integration of migrant children into the Guyanese society. The Unit collaborates with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the Ministries of Human Services and Social Security, Health, and other stakeholders.
The RM&MSS aims to ensure equitable access to education and ensure that children affected by crises can access a safe and productive learning environment.
Coordinator of the RM&MSS, Rampattie Prashad-Bisnauth noted that the Department of Education, Region Three assisted several students with the translation of documents through the Catholic Church while visits were made to Regions 1, 3, 4 and 7 to assess the problems migrant children are encountering in regards to access to education.
Mrs. Bisnauth said that the RM&MSS is in the process of gathering data to create an active database to determine where the children are residing and how assistance can be provided.
“Data guides policy implementation and projects, hence, it’s important that we know where these children are and how the Ministry of Education can help with integrating them in schools and providing support,” she said.
The RM&MSS collaborates with all Departments of Education across the eleven education districts which provide data on migrants (not limited to Venezuelans) admitted in each school across the regions. Using the information provided, the Unit visits schools and communities to assess the needs of the migrants and provide support services as is required. The Unit can be contacted on 604 – 1316.
In addition to migrants, the Risk Management aspect of the Unit’s functions will see it providing support to students affected by outbreaks and disasters.