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Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Guyana- CPCE declared a no-smoking zone

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Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy,

Published: 5th June. www.caribdaily.com/article/297376/cpce-declared-a-no-smoking-zone/

Strong disciplinary action will be taken against teachers if they are in breach of the ‘No Smoking’ declaration. This disclosure was made by Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh, even as efforts were engaged to expand the No Smoking stance to the Cyril Potter College of Education.

The tertiary facility was yesterday officially declared a ‘No Smoking Zone.’

The auspicious undertaking was endorsed by Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy and Acting PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr Rosalinda Hernandez, with the presentation of a diagram of a smoker’s body to Principal of the Institution, Ms Debra Thomas. According to Minister Baksh, the Ministry of Education was one of the first organisations to join forces with the Health Ministry when Minister Ramsammy decided to declare workplaces smoke free zones. “It is over a year now our schools have all gotten posters and later on all the locations of the Ministry of Health itself had put up posters.”

And according to Baksh, it is his expectation that there are no breaches in the school system with respect to the ‘No Smoking’ warning, which applies not only to students, but equally to teachers as well. He revealed that following the ‘No Smoking’ warning at schools across the country there were reports that teachers were breaching the rules. “I want to announce here today that if one teacher is found breaching that rule, and we can establish that fact, strong disciplinary action will be taken against that teacher. We will ensure that the Teaching Service Commission acts. We cannot have one rule for the students and another rule for the teachers. Often we have seen that, but the Ministry will not tolerate such a situation.”

He emphasised that the Ministry has a zero tolerance policy for smoking and alcohol use in the school system. “When you have school fairs and parties a lot of alcohol consumption takes place in the schools…but not now, because we have banned it. The Chief Education Officer has issued a circular that no alcohol will be allowed in the schools.”

In addition, there is a zero tolerance on drug use in the school system, the Minister added. “Only yesterday (Thursday) in the Parliament, I was asked some questions about the extent of the use of drugs and the sale of drugs in the school system and I am happy to report, as I reported to the National Assembly, that for this year we have not received any reports from the schools on drug use…”

In the previous academic year, the Minister stated, there were only two reports of drug use and both were taken to the courts. In fact, the Minister disclosed, the Ministry is maintaining vigilance on drug use and will be strengthening its reporting system with support from international organisations.

 However, he noted that it is the teachers that are required to be the ambassadors in the system and ensure that the required messages are disseminated.

“It is not only designated schools and workplaces that we are targeting. We have to ensure that each and every community… the whole country, responds to the no smoking warning…smoking could mean disaster not only for the smoker, but it affects others in the whole environment. Some people would like to self-destruct but they are also affecting others in the process.”

But though the no smoking declaration has so far been centred on the public school system, Minister Baksh expressed his desire to extend the programme to private schools as well. As such, he noted that plans are apace to ink letters to private institutions as early as next week asking for their co-operation in this venture.

“I know that some private schools already have zero tolerance for smoking, alcohol and drug use, but there are others where this might not be the case.” At the moment, the Ministry has a full inventory of all registered private schools across the country that will be targeted, Baksh disclosed.

And since the Ministries of Education and Health have had a close collaboration over the years, a School Health, Nutrition, HIV/AIDS Unit has been put in place within the Education Ministry.

This unit, the Minister said, has been in place for about two years now and is staffed by two professional officers who are remunerated by the Ministry of Health.

“They are here to ensure that we monitor what is taking place in the school system and also that programmes are carried out with good support…”

 According to Baksh, the Education Ministry is in full support of the work of the Ministry of Health and has even commissioned, through UNESCO, a programme called the Education Sector Response to HIV/AIDS.

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