There are exactly 41 Education Welfare Officers, providing information, advice, guidance and support to the nearly 190,000 children in the 970 public schools across the country.
Chief Schools’ Welfare Officer, Ministry of Education, Gillian Vyphius in an interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA) today, said that the Welfare Department has been “juggling” to provide the service of education welfare officers to the students, including working with ‘at-risk’ students families and other community partners to address barriers to learning and strengthening the safety net for these students.
Vyphius said to fill the gap, the department has to rely heavily on the “Liaison Welfare Officers, whereby teachers are identified from different schools to liaise with the school’s welfare department to deal with minor incidents that arise in the schools.”
Vyphius explained that those teachers with Social Work background are asked by the Ministry to carry the function of the Liaison Welfare Officer. At the Ministry of Education, there is what is called a ‘Maintenance of Order and Discipline Manual.’ Vyphius explained that this manual is used to train these teachers, and is also used as a guide in carrying out their liaison duties, including sanctioning students.
The department only seeks to step in with the support of the Education Welfare Officers for serious issues such as violent behaviour including fighting with a weapon, the Chief Schools’ Welfare Officer explained.
The teachers have been carrying out the duties of liaison officers without compensation from the Ministry. Vyphius said that the department plans to seek a stipend for the teachers.
The Liaison Welfare Officer programme however is not active in all schools, just those in Regions Five, Six and Ten, Vyphius said.
The introduction of more schools’ welfare officers and counsellors is among issues that the government has identified to address in the revamp of the education system that churns out more well-rounded children.
Minister of Education Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, had, in an earlier interview with GINA suggested the rehiring of retired Head Teachers to fill some of these roles.