FINAL REPORT Needs Assessment on Education for Venezuelans, Returning Guyanese and Venezuelan Warrau in the Mabaruma Sub-District of Region 1
Voices GY March-April 2019
Acknowledgements Voices GY would like to extend appreciation to all government officials, schools, community leaders, members of the Venezuelan and Guyanese communities, and others who assisted us in collecting the information presented in this end of project report. Particular thanks are extended to UNHCR for their invaluable support throughout each stage of the project design and implementation, and to the Ministry of Education for the logistical support and on-the-ground orientation. This report is the result of the collaborative efforts of each of these agencies, individuals and institutions, without whom we would have been unable to present our findings herein.
Background and Objectives
1. Results: Access to Education
1.1 Role of Educational Background in School Enrollment:
1.2 Inadequate Communication and Language Barriers
1.3 Infrastructural and Resource Limitations
1.4 Other Socio-Economic Factors at Home
2. Results: Quality of Education
2.1 Teacher-Student Comprehension and Communication
2.2 Behavioural issues and Integration of students
2.3 Burden on teachers
2.4 Communication with the parents
3. Additional Key Findings
3.1 Results: barriers to social integration
3.2 Results: Other Priority Concerns for Venezuelans, Returning Guyanese and Venezuelan Warrau17
The Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana has shown great generosity and resourcefulness towards assisting persons fleeing the crisis in Venezuela. The communities and local government in Region One have been particularly generous in their support of Venezuelans, returning Guyanese, and Venezuelan Warrau (hereafter referred to as â&#x20AC;&#x2039;VRGWâ&#x20AC;&#x2039;), and represent a positive example to the international community. However, inward migration to Guyana places significant pressures on Region Oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s institutions and resources, making continued and targeted humanitarian assistance a must. The present Needs Assessment is the result of consultations with 261 persons in 15 villages and communities over an 18-day period from March-April, 2019. The Assessment sought to evaluate, through a range of interviews and focus group discussions, obstacles towards the enrolment and adequate education of VRGW schoolchildren in the subdistrict of Mabaruma. This report presents the results of this Needs Assessment. It is clear that additional support could be given in order to assist the Ministry of Education in its efforts to afford VRGW children with equitable educational opportunities. Significant numbers of children continue to be out of school, with challenges arising in terms of engagement with parents, streamlining the enrollment process, and preparing schools and teachers for greater numbers of VRGW children. There are also clear areas of assistance needed for teachers and VRGW students in order to ensure the highest possible standard of education once enrolled, among which efforts to overcome and diminish the language barrier are foremost. UNHCR has signalled its disposition to work with the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the international aid community to bring about the developments needed for the betterment of VRGW and host communities. It is our hope that the current Needs Assessment will play an instrumental role in the fulfilment of this commitment.
Background and Objectives The deteriorating socio-economic and political conditions in Venezuela over recent years have resulted in significant outward migration to neighbouring countries and other parts of the Caribbean and the Americas. Guyana’s highly-porous border with Venezuela represents both an important transit point and a growing destination for many who are exiting the eastern states of Venezuela. Among those migrating are indigenous Warrau, persons with dual Guyanese nationality, and hispanic Venezuelans. Despite these groups not always presenting clear-cut differentiations, each group carries differing cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and as such are often considered independently of one another. Present throughout these different demographics, however, are families and children. The Needs Assessment presented in this report comes at a point where migration from Venezuela to Guyana appears to be steadily increasing. Between January and March 2019, at least 1,563 persons were registered as having entered Guyana from Venezuela in Region 1. Local government estimates suggest that approximately 4,000 VRGW have become resident in the region since the start of 2018, of whom a large number are resident in remote and under-resourced villages. Of those interviewed in this Needs Assessment, 95% indicated that they desired to stay in their current location indefinitely. This 18-day Needs Assessment in the Mabaruma Sub-District of Region One sought to analyse access to and quality of education for VRGW, with a particular lens to language barriers and social cohesion. The Needs Assessment sought as its focus those VRGW resident in the region, rather than seeking to observe the numbers or specific needs of migrants in transit, or those temporarily present for trade or economic gain. The results presented herein reflect the principal needs and dynamics surrounding these thematics for the Mabaruma subdistrict.
Methodology The present Needs Assessment combined the following assessment tools in pursuit of a balanced and representative evaluation of the education sector in regards to the influx of VRGW children: ●
Four (4) Focus Group Discussions with School Staff, of whom 72% were female and 28% male. The percentage of staff interviewed by location was: Mabaruma Primary School (34%); Wauna Primary School (28%); Hosororo Primary School (19%); and White Water Primary School (19%). Ten (10) Focus Group Discussions with VRGW School Children, in which 60% were girls and 40% boys. The percentage of students interviewed by location was: White Water Primary School 42%; Mabaruma Primary School 29%; Hosororo Primary School 14%; Wauna Primary School 12%; and North West Secondary School 4%. It’s important to mention that Hosororo and Wauna also host Secondary Departments which were included in this assessment. One (1) Focus Group Discussion with Venezuelan Warrau Community Members (15 participants). Fifty-nine (59) Door-to-door interviews with Venezuelans, Returning Guyanese and Warrau, of whom 75% were female and 25% males. 4
Twelve (12) Semi-structured interviews with Key Informants (Toshaos, local officials, local community members, etc.)
These assessment tools were complemented by forty-six (46) unstructured conversations with community members and other interested persons, wherein notes were consensually taken. The 15 communities visited and evaluated were: Mabaruma, Hubo, Settlement, Barabina, Kumaka Yarakita, Whitewater (including Blackwater), Wauna, Hosororo, Bumbury, Morawhanna, Imbotero, Three Brothers, Hotoquai and Hobedaia.
Table 1: Locations visited and current number of VRGW students in each school School
Number Pre-September 2018
Barabina Primary School
White Water Primary School
Mabaruma Primary School
Yarakita Primary School
St. Dominic Primary School
Three Brothers Primary School
Peter and Paul Primary School (Smith’s Creek)
4 (1 of whom is not formally enrolled)
Cyprian’s Primary School (Imbotero)
3 (none formally enrolled)
Wauna Primary School
Wauna Secondary Department
Hosororo Primary School
Hosororo Secondary Department
Yarakita Secondary Department
North West Secondary School
Key Findings Cross-cutting each of the key findings were important nuances between the three distinct demographics of arrivees from Venezuela: Spanish-speaking Venezuelans (referred to as criollos b y Spanish-speakers, or colloquially as ‘real’ Venezuelans by Guyanese in the region); Returning Guyanese, and Venezuelan Warraus whose main language of communication is the Warrau language. These differences are primarily both cultural and linguistic, but also indicate differing backgrounds vis-a-vis formal education in Venezuela and varying socio-economic status as refugees. In each of the Key Findings below, differentiation between each of these subgroups is indicated where relevant.
1. Results: Access to Education
1.1 Role of Educational Background in School Enrollment: As may be reasonably expected, the Needs Assessment observed that those students whose school attendance in Venezuela was either partially or wholly lacking were less likely to attend school in Guyana than counterparts who were receiving an education before migrating. It is believed that the children of Venezuelan and Returning Guyanese typically attended school in Venezuela and are more likely to be enrolled in Guyana, whereas Warrau children were less likely to have attended school in Venezuela and are also largely not enrolled in Guyana. These latter part of this statement is is corroborated by the fact that 56% and 54% of children of Returning Guyanese and Venezuelans, respectively, interviewed in door-to-door surveys are enrolled in Guyana, whereas only 35% of children of Venezuelan Warrau are enrolled. In two communities of Warrau refugees, however, makeshift educational facilities and pop-up classrooms have recently been established. Classrooms have been established in two locations on Khan Hill (one in the church building and another in the ‘ball park’ settlement) where beginner English classes are taught by a total of four resident Guyanese volunteer tutors. These classes had up to 19 and 46 participants, respectively, at the time of the assessment, of whom 49 are school-aged children. In Blackwater some efforts have been made to teach elements such as colours and numbers in English to Warrau-speaking children through an open-air Saturday morning class. Teachers informed the assessment that there is an almost absolute absence of items such as pencils, exercise books, educational posters (e.g. displaying the alphabet or numbers), blackboards and school uniforms for these makeshift classrooms, although GWI donated some posters and notebooks to the Blackwater community during the assessment. Teachers also signalled their willingness to receive formal training and support from the Ministry of Education or elsewhere, should this be a possibility. Of the respondents to the door-to-door questionnaire who had not received a formal education as a child themselves, only 40% were found to be sending children to school in Guyana (all of these respondents were Warrau). On the other hand, only 29% of respondents who had gone to 6
school themselves were not be sending their children to school in Guyana. These statistics reveal the important role of both cultural attitudes and the educational history of the family (which are often inseparably intertwined) in securing education for children. However, conversations with leaders and members of the Warrau community suggested a strong desire for the children to attend school and at least a verbal recognition of the importance of English fluency for their children’s future. Although it is unclear whether this is entirely motivated by a desire for education or whether other factors, such as the provision of uniforms and school meals which accompany education in Guyana, represent a more important motivating factor, the commitment shown by students at schools in Blackwater and Khan Hill signal that the it at least a significant part of the reason. Of the Guyanese retournees and Venezuelan refugees interviewed, all school-aged children were attending school in Venezuela but only 56% and 54% had enrolled since arriving in Guyana. This suggests that other factors beyond educational background are influential in access to education for Venezuelan arrivees. Recommendations: ● Combined with the 35 Guyanese primary school students from Khan Hill who attend surrounding schools, the provision of a school specifically for this community, and formal teacher training for these acting teachers, would address many of the issues plaguing access to education. ● As a temporary measure to support English proficiency among Warrau settlements on Khan Hill and in Blackwater, the provision of learning resources such as textbooks, pencils, blackboards, and educational materials is required. ● Teacher training, particularly in ESL, for voluntary tutors currently leading efforts in the makeshift classrooms would offer employment opportunities and guarantee greater quality and sustainability in the classes currently being offered.
1.2 Inadequate Communication and Language Barriers For those Venezuelan children who aren’t currently enrolled in formal education, a number of factors were cited by parents as justification. Many of these reasons contradict the information relayed during the Needs Assessment by the Department of Education representatives. By percentage, these were: ● ● ● ● ●
Lack of school uniform: 63.6 % Lack of birth certificate: 27.3% Lack of vaccination card: 22.7% Lack of material resources (pencil, books, etc.): 18.2% Others: 9.1%
The Department of Education stated during our visit that only the lack of birth certificate and a lack of space or resources to accommodate more children would play a part in rejecting a student’s enrollment. This detail was confirmed by a number of school Directors who were questioned on the matter, however occasional reports were given by VRGW parents of teachers citing these items as reason for non-enrollment and at least one Director asserted that all of the above items were mandatory. 7
Care must be taken in analysing whether or not the reasons provided are indicative of the actual reason for non-enrollment. Other factors, such as cultural attitudes towards schooling or more immediate difficulties of the humanitarian sort, may form part or whole of the actual reason. However, the role of language barriers between parents and the source of information must also be considered. Of those who gave one of the above factors as their reason for non-enrollment, 36% had basic or non-existent proficiency in English. In contrast, it is believed that the majority of the children enrolled in schools have a direct relative (e.g. mother/father, aunt/uncle, etc) that speaks either only English or English and Spanish at home (an item which was corroborated by the Department of Education who stated that they are mostly children or grandchildren of returning Guyanese), suggesting that having English speaking parentage (most often, returning Guyanese) plays a role in the likelihood of school enrollment. However, it is important to note that these same Guyanese retournees are in general subject to greater socio-economic stability and support networks, meaning also that many of the above factors are not as prohibitive as they may be for Venezuelan or Warrau parents. The burden of overcoming language barriers in order to relay information relating to enrollment occasionally falls upon staff and teachers, as when the non-English speaking parents of Venezuelan children have visited the Department of Education or schools to request enrollment. These situations are challenging in a department without a single Spanish speaker present. This difficulty is characterised by the fact that birth certificates, in Spanish, presented by the parents of VRGW children to the Welfare Department are ineligible to the staff. The current system is that a Spanish-speaking person from another department is asked to cross-check between 5-10 birth certificates per month, as a matter of favour and without any clear criteria with which to assess the certificates. In the event that this person is unavailable, Welfare is at times obliged to trust in the validity of the certificate without any means of understanding what is actually written. At other times, the correct information is lost in person-to-person transmission. This is the case for Khan Hill’s Venezuelan Warrau, who widely believe that English proficiency is a prerequisite of enrollment in formal education, and was evident in the statement of a mother-of-three in Barabina who cited her inability to buy school uniforms as the reason she had been turned away. Neither of these cases alone should prohibit enrollment according to the information provided in conversation with the Department of Education in Mabaruma. Recommendations: ● Consider the hiring of at least one bilingual (Spanish-English or Warrau-English) or trilingual (Spanish-Warrau-English) outreach officer to work with the Department of Education, Mabaruma in producing communication materials in key languages, strengthening the transmission of consistent information, and assisting in the translation or interpretation of materials such as Birth Certificates. ● Ensure regular and consistent information and updates are received and acknowledged by all teaching staff and persons with responsibility for school enrollment in the sub-region in order to avoid inconsistencies. ● Consider mitigating measures for accepting the enrollment of children without birth certificates in Guyana or providing them with alternative educational opportunities.
1.3 Infrastructural and Resource Limitations
A further significant obstacle to education is the limitation the schools themselves possess in terms of human and material resources and infrastructure. Whilst only a small number of respondents (3%) mentioned lack of school capacity or school resource limitations as a reason for not sending their children to school, there is potential for this factor to become a defining one in the near future in the most affected communities. The need for the construction of further classrooms was mentioned by the Directors at Whitewater, Wauna and Yarakita, the latter location also needing approximately 50 benches and chairs before being able to accommodate the potential new students in the community. The Toshao of Yarakita had reportedly committed to build these benches, but this was one of a number of unfulfilled promises the community - both Guyanese and Venezuelan - complained had gone unfulfilled during his mandate. Hosororo School is currently 50 benches short, particularly in benches for secondary students. Both Whitewater and Yarakita are also in need of additional teachers. Class sizes throughout the most impacted schools are large, with one class at Mabaruma Primary (where there are 49 Venezuelan students) having 63 children to one teacher. In order to alleviate the pressure that new VRGW children will have on teachers, further human resources are needed in the teaching field. The possibility of larger numbers of schoolchildren will also require adjustments to school transportation. At present, buses give priority to schoolchildren at peak hours. However, more services will need to be found and routes may need to be adjusted if schools are to take in more students. It is worth noting, however, that most of the families included in the door-to-door interviews are within a 2.5km radius of the nearest primary school. There was no apparent separation between the places of residence of Guyanese and Venezuelans and Returning Guyanese, and the Warrau communities at Yarakita, Khan’s Hill and Blackwater are either within or adjacent to the Guyanese communities in those locations.
Recommendations: ● ● ●
Assistance is recommended in providing benches, chairs and additional learning resources to particularly needy schools, such as Yarakita, Whitewater and Hosororo. The provision of an extension to the schools at Yarakita and Whitewater will be necessary if the lack of infrastructure and material resources is not to be an obstacle for enrollment. Consider the development of a special bilingual education programme for Warrau students in specific communities of high concentration (e.g. Yarakita, Blackwater and Khan Hill), in which English may be taught as a foreign language. Bilingual education may also benefit Guyanese Warrau children (for example, in Morawhanna). This programme could take guidance from the bilingual education pilot project currently underway in Aishalton (Region 9). Additional teachers, particularly bilingual (Spanish-English) or (Warrau-English), must be procured for the region.
1.4 Other Socio-Economic Factors at Home
It is important to recognise the role of the broader socio-economic context on families, and the impact that this may have on school enrollment. During this Needs Assessment, it was observed by the authors that VRGW children are for the most part living in densely populated housing arrangements, often cohabiting with more than one family. There are both cultural and socio-economic precedents for such housing arrangements. In the door-to-door interviews undertaken, families with enrolled VRGW children typically lived with 7.5 cohabitants, whereas those whose children were not enrolled lived with 10.6 cohabitants. Furthermore, items such as food (47%), water (47%) and housing (47%) were significantly more prominent concerns among parents of non-enrolled students than for the families 1 of enrolled students (food (29%); water (18%) and housing (25%)). The need for work was relatively evenly cited (53% for parents of non-enrolled VRGW compared to 54% for parents of enrolled children). Here, again, particular mention must be made to the needs of the Warrau communities in Yarakita, Blackwater and Khan Hill, who formed 60% of the interviewees whose children were not enrolled. These indicators point towards lower school attendance among refugees with a lower socioeconomic status, which is easily corroborated by the degree to which school uniforms 2 presented a barrier to enrollment. However, in some cases these indicators may be a smokescreen for the influences of traditional culture upon attitudes towards formal education. Some immediate examples were garnered from structured interviews on Khan Hill, where the teacher at the church site noted that studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; attendance at her English classes had dropped in the last couple of days as a result of children suffering severe hunger. Furthermore, a number of respondents mentioned that their children assist in agricultural and other forms of family labour in order to generate money or food. These situations may negatively affect some childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ability to attend school, particularly as the age of the student increases and they are more capable of contributing to the family economy. Graph 01: Comparison of the main difficulties faced by families with enrolled and non-enrolled children
Source: Prepared by the authors Recommendations:
Percentage of respondents who mentioned this concern. School uniforms, including footwear, may cost between $5.000-$10.000
Targeted financial assistance with items such as school uniforms, backpacks, pencils and textbooks is vital to ensure that education is a factor in lifting families from poverty and not a factor which generates further poverty. A coordinated response is needed by UN agencies and the government to meet the basic needs of families, particularly single mothers, in terms of sanitation, economic stability, access to potable water, decent housing and adequate access to medical help.
2. Results: Quality of Education The data collected in the present Needs Assessment substantiates the enrollment of at least 145 primary and secondary school students in the sub-district of Mabaruma alone. This number does not, however, account for all schools in the sub-district which, when taken into account, may bring 3 the final number closer to 200. As presented above in Table 1, this number is the result of a sharp increase in the admission of migrant students since the start of the September 2018 academic term. This represents an increasing burden on teachers and schools by creating larger class sizes by incorporating students who present a unique set of challenges. For those students currently accessing education, there are a number of interrelated challenges posed both to teaching staff and to the students themselves. Many of these derive from a central theme of language and communication barriers.
2.1 Teacher-Student Comprehension and Communication By far the most significant challenge identified by the teachers surveyed was that of adequate communication with non-English-speaking students. 80% of teachers involved in focus group discussions referenced general communication difficulties, whereas 50% specifically mentioned challenges in the children’s comprehension; an issue reflected also by the fact that the Directors of each of the schools consulted mentioned language barriers as being the major difficulty. Many newly arriving students, even those with Returning Guyanese parentage, have little-to-no English ability. At the lower grades of primary school this issue appears easier to overcome than in the Secondary Schools and Departments. Of the 67 primary school students who participated in (Spanish language) Focus Group Discussions, 66% said they preferred speaking English over Spanish. Those who responded to the contrary were often the most recently-arrived students (typically having started classes within the last 3-6 months) or those who don’t reside with an English-speaking relative. This reflects comments made by teachers and parents that young students typically take around three months to ‘learn English’ - to become responsive to English commands, even if other areas of difficulty persist. Whilst students at the younger grades do appear to learn English and assimilate with more ease, teachers overwhelming noted consistent difficulties among this group. The key areas identified were in terms of writing, reading and pronunciation. Whilst self-assessment of these difficulties wasn’t sought among this age group, students showed an interesting preference for mathematics when asked what their favourite subject was (59%). They also followed up this response by noting that it was easier to do maths when they could see the numbers written on the blackboard. 3
It is believed that many schools throughout the subdistrict may have small numbers of VRGW students.
At secondary school level, the difficulties surrounding comprehension and communication appear to have more tangible effects on students’ morale. Typically, the older students (who have experienced a more significant part of their personal and academic formation in Spanish before coming to Guyana than students at primary level) showed a preference for speaking Spanish (70%), whereas primary school students preferred English (66%). Only 26% of secondary school students said that speaking English was easy, as opposed to 74% of primary school students. Students at the secondary level identified their difficulties as being in the areas of reading (understood to refer primarily to vocabulary), writing and pronunciation, although those students who had been at the school for longer periods tended to respond that speaking and comprehension did not present significant challenges. It is important to note that, despite these difficulties corresponding to the difficulties identified for primary school children, the students’ analysis of these difficulties was often far more pessimistic and they were far more forthcoming in their requests for assistance in overcoming them. The result of communication barriers at both Primary and Secondary level appear to take the following forms: disturbance of normal class flow, increasing pressure on teachers, and challenging behavioural patterns. Some concerns, especially as expressed during focus group discussions, were also raised by teachers and students that the academic performance of VRGW children was lesser than that of Guyanese students, despite the comments of Secondary School children at two Secondary departments that the curriculum in Venezuela teaches skills such as reading and mathematics at an earlier stage. This latter detail is perhaps partially to thank for the observation by some teachers than Venezuelan children often overtake their Guyanese counterparts as time goes by. In an interesting case for comparison, at Peter and Paul Primary School in Smith’s Creek, where only three VRGW students are enrolled but where approximately 50 of the 70 students come from Warrau-speaking households, teachers experience similar communication barriers. Since piloting a new form of teaching involving more visual materials and class repetition to accompany new vocabulary since January 2019, teachers are already reporting a significant improvement in students’ engagement and performance. Teachers, Directors and other education-related informants interviewed during the course of the Needs Assessment overwhelmingly expressed a desire for assistance with the Spanish language. These desires were principally aimed at i) Spanish-speaking teachers and teaching assistants (63%), potentially to teach separate classes for Spanish-speaking students (13%); ii) Spanish-language resources such as Spanish-English dictionaries for schools (47%); and iii) Spanish-language tuition for 4 teachers (43%). These requests appear to be at least in part a response to tentative assistance of the types (i) and (iii) by one UN agency. However, these requests may be understood as somewhat of a natural response to the difficulties of communication, but which may not fully take into account the sustainability of such an approach in the long-term and as new teachers enter the system. There are significant questions surrounding the ability of teachers to reach a level of Spanish with which to overcome important communication barriers. Further apparent questions are how this approach would affect the classroom experience of non-Spanish-speaking students, and whether teachers would learn at a rate comparable to that of Spanish-speaking children receiving the same attention toward their development in English. The challenge can, in part at least, be reduced to the challenges of teaching bilingual or multilingual classrooms, and the responses should reflect this challenge.
Figures taken from Focus Group Discussions involving teachers.
Recommendations ● Undertake workshops for teachers in Region 1 on didactic techniques for multilingual classes, including placing greater emphasis on visual, auditive and repetition techniques in lesson-planning. ● Assist the Ministry of Education in producing or acquiring visual props and/or lesson materials for use by teachers. ● Provide ESL tuition to selected teachers for the subsequent provision of a pilot programme of English as a Second Language (ESL) tuition targeted at new and struggling Spanish and Warrau-speaking students. ● Provide Preparatory Classes once or twice per week to introduce non-English speaking students to the key vocabulary to be confronted in school the coming week, thus facilitating their preparation for new topics and avoiding certain language barriers. These may alternatively be pre-recorded vocabulary lists on CDs or audio drives. ● Provide basic Spanish tuition for teachers as a means not of conversational or teaching support but of immediate conflict relief. This may include phrases to ask and understand about whether the child is unwell or needs to use the washroom, for example.
2.2 Behavioural issues and Integration of students Another of the principal difficulties mentioned by teachers were the differing behavioural patterns exhibited by VRGW children. One in five teachers listed this difficulty on their introductory questionnaires, although the idea that the behaviour of VRGW students was problematic was a consensus during the ensuing discussions in each of the four focus groups undertaken. These were often characterised by teachers in mentioning increased levels of violence, restlessness, use of swear words (in Spanish) and improper dress. Some teachers (20%) initially suggested that these perceived behavioural differences were due to cultural differences, whereas a lesser number (7%) presented a more nuanced view of these factors being the result of isolation and frustration. Despite the prevalence of negative behavioural differences being mentioned by teachers, VRGW students often presented opposing viewpoints. Students in one school where teachers had mentioned this challenge responded, when asked whether they liked their classmates, that it was their Guyanese classmates who were violent and that they bullied them through name-calling and mockery. In another school, students stated that teachers often took the side of Guyanese students when there were disagreements. A separate case, again in a different school, involved a Venezuelan worker accused of stealing and subsequently fired, despite his professed innocence and the apparent lack of evidence. The suggestion in each of these cases is that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the tendency is for trust to be placed in the statements of English-speaking students/persons over those of their Spanish-speaking counterparts. The behavioural differences noted may, therefore, have precedents that the teachers are not fully aware of and punishing these students may exacerbate their feelings of isolation and victimhood at school. The restlessness identified by teachers may also be a result of students only partially understanding lessons and struggling to maintain interest due to language barriers. Language barriers were also mentioned by many teachers for their role in making students frustrated that they couldn’t confide in teachers or ask for help when they face problems. This factor undoubtedly inhibits the ability of teachers to build rapport with students whose first language is not 13
English. Teachers responded in the focus groups that they would like to know more about new VRGW children’s academic and personal background in Venezuela, to which they have no access at current. In one case observed during the Needs Assessment, a Grade 2 student was unresponsive for a large portion of the class before a Spanish-speaking assistant noticed her and highlighted that the child was unwell. The teacher had made all reasonable efforts to engage the child, but was not able to identify that her disengagement was due to her feeling unwell without having the means to dialogue with her. This case reflects other cases mentioned of children wanting to use the washroom and teachers being unaware. Recommendations: ● Consider devising a means for Spanish-speaking children to assist in the delivery of Spanish-language classes in the Modern Languages space on the curriculum. ● Provide conflict training for teachers to better manage situations involving negative behaviour without stigmatising students. ● Assist in the development of a simple background check of new students in which parents can offer some basic information regarding the child’s educational and personal background in Venezuela.
2.3 Burden on teachers These diverse challenges ultimately result in a burden for some teachers. The influx of non-English-speaking students is a new and challenging situation for which little formal preparation or support has yet been given. The teachers interviewed overwhelmingly responded that they haven’t changed their teaching style in any way since the enrollment of Spanish-speaking students, yet many reported having to spend more time in one-to-one situations with these children. This was also identified as a factor impacting on the class flow, which some teachers acknowledged may take away from the education received by their classmates. Due to there being relatively few schools with more than 10 new VRGW students, class sizes haven’t seen a significant increase. The exceptions to this rule are Mabaruma Primary School, where 1/10 students are VRGW (an increase of 58% since September 2018) and Whitewater Primary School (where 18% are VRGW) where there are already 69 students more than the school’s approximate capacity. This enrollment rate shows no signs of slowing however, particularly as measures are put in place to support the enrollment of more out-of-school children. Teacher’s often began their response to the introductory question of ‘how have you found having Spanish-speaking students in your class?’ with ‘it’s been difficult’, or something similar. The desire that some teachers expressed to separate Spanish-speaking students into their own class or even a separate school may be seen to reflect this reality to some degree. It is important to note, however, that the Department of Education in Mabaruma, as well as the Directors of the schools visited, are cognizant of the strain being placed on teachers and are receptive of assistance if it is to be offered to them. Recommendations:
Involve opportunities for teachers to develop professionally through implemented programmes, as well as offering them appropriate incentives to work overtime if involved in additional classes or otherwise.
2.4 Communication with the parents The challenges associated with language barriers in education extend beyond the classroom. This is not always the case for many VRGW students, who may have at least one Guyanese parent or family member. In other cases, however, teachers reported that they were unable or barely able to communicate with parents (7-10%). In some cases, there appeared to be misalignments in the reports given by parents and those given by teachers regarding the child’s academic performance, behaviour and English ability. Few parents confided that their children had been the victims of bullying at school, and many considered their children to be largely untroubled by the language. Whilst the former may be attributable to their willingness to open up to interviewers on such themes, the latter suggests that teacher-parent dialogue may not be as effective as it would ideally be. On those occasions where teachers and parents are unable to communicate fluently, and where an interpreter isn’t found by the family (an informal solution which some were reported to have taken), there is the potential for students to lack the appropriate support from parents in meeting their academic objectives. During the focus groups discussions, 17% of teachers mentioned that children should receive better support from parents in terms of the language. Parents may be helpless to assist with homework if they don’t understand the language, and are unable to provide the teacher with context and advice regarding their child’s academic strengths and weaknesses and character. The result of such a lack of communication may lead to low rates of attendance among enrolled VRGW children; one Venezuelan couple of three school-aged children reported that their children were at school on the day in question because they deemed the classes to be ineffective.
3. Additional Key Findings This final section is envisioned not as a thorough evaluation of the living conditions and challenges facing Venezuelans, Returning Guyanese and Venezuelan Warrau in Region 1, but rather as a means of providing a contextual overview of other factors involved. The information in the following sections is the result of 59 door-to-door interviews of between 10-25 minutes in duration, involving both open and closed questions, undertaken in 8 affected communities. Brief interviews were also held with representatives of a number of Government Ministries and institutions, as well as with Guyanese community leaders and community members. The basis of providing these results herein is two-fold. Firstly, the potential for outside factors to affect children’s enrollment, attendance and performance at school, as well as their potential to form a member of society outside of school, may be key in certain instances. Secondly, although the focus of this Needs Assessment was education, VRGW face a range of challenges which may be met through inter-agency and inter-sectoral approaches for the significant betterment of living standards. Due to the range of issues highlighted, and the general manner in which data has been collected and presented, recommendations are not given in this section.
3.1 Results: barriers to social integration
The degree to which Venezuelans, Returning Guyanese and Warrau have been accepted and integrated into Guyanese society in Region 1 varies from community to community. In the vast majority of cases (91%), respondents to the questionnaire answered affirmatively that they feel welcomed and accepted in Guyana. Only 12% made mention of having been the victim of xenophobia or racism in response to this question. Certain cases of xenophobia and stereotyping were more apparent in localities such as Kumaka, however. A number of respondents, both Guyanese and Venezuelan, answered that there was a prevailing stereotype of Venezuelan women as sex workers and Venezuelan men as violent and disruptive (a ‘sporting culture’, in local terminology). Cultural differences may exacerbate the differences between Venezuelans and Guyanese in that the Venezuelan migrants in particular often come from larger cities such as Puerto Ordaz and San Felix and are unaccustomed to the quiet and unhurried pace of life in much of Region One. Language barriers also contribute to mistrust, particularly in areas such as Kumaka. One Guyanese store-owning couple in Kumaka Market gave the example of how Venezuelans speak Spanish in their store as an indication that they don’t want to integrate. Language barriers and unfamiliarity with the culture were also cited as the means by which many employers exploit Guyanese workers, paying as little as $1.000 GYD per day of work and firing them if they complain. One Guyanese interviewee in Kumaka indicated their belief that if Venezuelans could speak English, they would be subject to less mistreatment at the hands of their employers because they would be better positioned to communicate their mistreatments. This mistreatment lends itself to mutual resentment, although the degree to which this mutual resentment or mistrust pervades is hard to quantify or generalise. Finally, there appear to be limited communal activities in which Guyanese and Venezuelans can come together. Interactions seem to be largely restricted to exchanges at the market. For adults, there are amateur football teams which include Venezuelan and Guyanese players. However, sports 16
clubs and extracurricular activities don’t appear to be present for children, according to the information obtained in this Needs Assessment.
3.2 Results: Other Priority Concerns for Venezuelans, Returning Guyanese and Venezuelan Warrau
Other priority areas highlighted in the interviews reflected a broad range of social, infrastructural and technical needs. The prevalence of the needs mentioned are presented in the graph below:
These results represent the answers given in response to the open questions ‘What have been your main challenges and difficulties since arriving in Guyana?’ and ‘Other comments?’ Respondents were not asked to evaluate a predetermined list of needs in each area, but were instead asked to volunteer information regarding the needs they deemed most noteworthy. The exact nature of the needs in each area varied among individuals and locations, but generally corresponded to the following criteria: Work (53% of respondents): Work was identified across the board as a significant difficulty, with evident impacts on the ability of respondents to procure food. In certain cases, the tools necessary for work were unavailable (e.g. the Warrau on Khan Hill don’t have fishing boats and are unable to manufacture them without a large chainsaw and fuel) whereas in many other cases there are inconsistent opportunities for labour. Food (37%): Food represents an immediate concern for many of those interviewed, and is closely intertwined with the need for work. Handouts and donations have been well-received, but have also led to expectations from certain communities that these will come with a degree of consistency. This unfulfilled expectation led to significant distress on Khan Hill, where Warrau and Guyanese residents were unaware that March’s donation from the Civil Defence Commission wasn’t scheduled for Khan Hill. Water (30%): Examples of wells and creeks providing unclean water were witnessed in Whitewater and its satellite, Blackwater. In Yarakita, the search for water reportedly involves a
60-minute round-trip on foot (a problem affecting both the VRGW and host communities). Requests often specified the desire for water tanks to be supplied. Housing (28%): Issues arising surrounding housing often originated in that rent prices were hard or impossible to pay, or that living space was currently being shared by more inhabitants than they should be. Other concerns arise from the temporary nature of many housing arrangements, such as in community buildings or occupied land. Communication/Social Integration (23%): Complaints of a social manner orientated around difficulties in communication (11%) and challenges integrating into society (12%). These problems were felt to be particularly acute in areas such as Kumaka, from where many of the reports of xenophobia originate yet where English-speaking Guyanese and Spanish-speaking VRGW are in close and regular contact. Clothing (16%): Clothing was at times mentioned as a necessity. 88% of these requests came from either Blackwater or Whitewater. Other (21%): Other factors mentioned included Agriculture, Electricity and Sanitation. Tools, such as machetes, matics, hoes, axes and fertilizer, are required in many villages with large inward migration. Many villages have been generous in offering plots to cultivate, but have limited supplies of agricultural tools with which to work the land.