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Jan 29, 1999

Truant officers discuss problems

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Maybe you’ve seen them around. They are the twenty-two truant officers who are trying to get our children back in school. Their job is not an easy one since the children they encounter may be suffering from a lot of social and emotional problems. To help the officers get the children off the streets the Ministry held a two day workshop to find ways to deal with some of the problems that truant officers encounter on a daily basis.

Oscar Reyes, Education Officer

“The workshop is about a national strategy for school attendance. What we are doing is to set up what is called a planned approach to addressing those problems. And we are consulting with our twenty-two school attendance officers countrywide to look at specific areas that makes the strategy relevant and make it workable.”

This new strategy will include looking very closely at these children’s situation at home. Many of the officers complain about children not having food to eat.

Oscar Reyes

“One of the biggest complaints these officers are mentioning is that quite a number of parents are not pulling their weight in carrying out their duties as parents. We are finding that the officers are complaining about the economic situation that severe poverty in certain cases, that the children cannot attend school. In poverty situation they do not get food on a regular basis. They may not have clothing and school supplies.”

William Robinson, Orange Walk Truant Officer

“Yes we have visited almost all the schools in Orange Walk Town and we have seen problems such as financial problems, problems with meals. Children going to school without having an adequate meal and also children going to school with parental problems.”

Sydney Petillo, Dangriga Truant Officer

“Some of my findings in Dangriga in the Stann Creek district is that some of our children are not getting the quality or the quantity of food. So there is a need for feeding programs in the primary school.”

While the problems being encountered may seem too large for a single truant officer to handle alone, all the officers we spoke to say they feel the effort is worthwhile.

William Robinson

“The job is a bit challenging. I love it because I am doing something for my community. The thing that I encounter most difficult is the means of transportation going from village to village in the rural areas where the problem is at large. I love my job as I mentioned; I am doing something for our community and it’s great.”

Sydney Petillo

“I enjoy working with children since I am a father myself and I am a teacher in profession. I believe in the development of our young people that we are going to have a better Belize, through education.”

Hyacinth Latchman for News Five.

The Ministry of Education says that they cannot deal with all the social problems that face these children. However, they say that the Family Court, Human Services and non-governmental organizations can work with them to get the nation’s wayward children back in school.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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