Budget does not address students’ mental health issues – MP

first_img…stresses need for counsellors in every schoolOpposition Parliamentarian Dr Vindhya Persaud told the National Assembly during her 2018Budget presentation that students are not safe in the school system. She backed up her assertion by referring to the recent allegation of sexual grooming and abuse of female students at the Bishops’ High School by a male teacher.BHS Economics teacher Coen Jackson is being accused of abusing his position of trust as a teacher when he began grooming female students for sexual activities after they would have attained the age of 16 — the legal age of consent. Jackson has vehemently denied the accusations, but did admit to having sexual relations with two former students who are both in their early 20s.He was arrested by the Police and questioned about sexual grooming, sexual assault, and rape committed on a former student. He has been placed on $100,000 station bail, and has been made to surrender his passport after denying the allegations. He is yet to be arraigned on the charges.Dr Persaud, in her Budget presentation, has said that even for women and girls preparing to enter the working world, the school system is not safe. “We have been reading in the papers recently of young women who are being preyed upon in schools; and there are predators in the school system who are preying on (our) daughters, young women who are preparing for life after school. Has the Ministry of Social Protection addressed this? The answer is ‘No’!” she said.She added that, having examined the budget, she is yet to see consideration for the expansion of services such as counselling in school.“Placing children first by putting counsellors in schools, I have not seen any provisions for this in the budget. Mr Speaker, these are safety nets for our children and our women,” she added.The Opposition Parliamentarian said nothing has been put in place to address the issues, and she urged collaboration from her fellow Parliamentarians to address the issues, since the health and wellbeing of the younger generation is no partisan issue.She noted that a good step was taken in 2010 with the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act, but questioned what happened to the National Taskforce for the Prevention of Sexual Violence.“We need counsellors. We have less than 100 counsellors in this country, (and they) are placed everywhere. When we think about the burden placed on these few counsellors, these few social workers, when it comes to women and children, I really feel sorry for them. Especially when I know that they have to take monies out of their pockets for simple things like transportation, and they are required sometimes to cover more than one region in this country,” she said.“We need to have more counselling hubs, human resource capacity-building; more movement with us dealing with post stress traumatic disorder. There is no collaboration to address these issues. We have seen the consistent increase in deaths when it comes to domestic violence, but do we see any mention being made of measures to address this?” she asked as she added that the system stinks of “inefficiency and incompetence.”She urged the Government side to ensure that the various units that they are establishing are equipped with the needed staffing, policies and programmes to ensure functionality at its best.She also questioned the Government’s inability to constitute the Teaching Services Commission.last_img