In June last year when Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said it was acceptable for Catholic schools to enrol Venezuelan migrant children, the board immediately got to work and sourced spots in their schools for over 2,000 minors who came with their parents during this country’s registration process.
“Yes, we have enough places for all of them in our Catholic schools,” Chair of the Catholic Archdiocese’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees, Leela Ramdeen said.
But that’s as far as they recached as Ramdeen said they need approval from the relevant authorities before they move forward.
“We are waiting for permission to allow them…for clearance from the minister, only the minister could give that for them to enter our schools,” she said.
“It’s illegal for us to allow them to enter,” she continued.
From May 31 to June 14, 2019, the Government allowed Venezuelans to register to live in this country for one year period. That time frame was extended by six months because of COVID-19.
A total of 16,523 migrants registered during the two-week process.
But while the migrants can work and receive basic health care, their children are not allowed to attend school.
It’s for this reason Public Relations Officer of TTV Solidary Network Heidi Diquez said Government should review what the Venezuelans here have access to.
“This registration process that is about to be extended or we don’t know yet if it could be considered, highly considered, that comes with a benefit of having access to formal education,” Diquez said.
While here some of the migrant children attended a programme called Child-Friendly Spaces held daily in Roman Catholic Parishes in rural communities.
But since COVID-19 the programme stopped.
“We cannot call them schools…when they were running the Venezuelan children would go there and the priest would raise funds, they would have classes to learn functional English and maintain parts of their culture,” Ramdeen said.
It’s where Kleiver Rosquel ,10, has been attending since he came with his mother to Mayaro over a year ago.
Now Kleiver who should be in Standard four is home all day.
He gets weekly worksheets, but his parents still worry about his future.
“He is good at school back in Venezuela… this no teach, no good,” his father Eiver Rosquel said.
Kleiver was playing with his younger cousin and puppy when Guardian Media visited, he said he likes math and English and misses his friends.
“Plenty friends,” he said.
His mother Marvis Vieira said there are several families in the Mayaro Community facing the same situation.
No one was at the Mayaro RC Parish when we visited but a peek inside showed evidence of cancelled classes with stacked benches and an empty whiteboard.
Other children who attended the school now receive an education through the Equal Place Education Programme for secondary school children supported by UNICEF.
“We have almost 150 children or students registered,” Diquez said.
Ramdeen said since Dr Keith Rowley’s announcement they have been in constant contact with Government to find out when permission would be granted.
“The children are vulnerable, remember when they not in school, when their parents are working, they vulnerable if they home alone or on the streets… I feel for the children, really they need some form of education,” she said.
When contacted about the plight of the migrant children, Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby Dolly said the decision rests with the Ministry of National Security.
She added the situation with the migrants is a bit fluid still and said her ministry is still awaiting direction.