The Leader of Government Business (Ag.) and Minister of Agriculture, Land & Fisheries, Clarence Rambharat during the debate on the Appropriation (Financial Year 2021) Bill, 2020 in Senate yesterday.

Students who are displaying concerning behaviour may be referred to the Ministry of Education’s Students Support Services division which is trained to deliver counselling services online and also does outreach to rural areas, Government Senator Clarence Rambharat said yesterday.

Rambharat was replying to a question from Independent Senator Paul Richards who asked about the type of assistance available from the ministry to students suffering emotional challenges especially at a time when they are doing classes from home.

His question came following the deaths of two boys.

Rambharat said, “On behalf of the Education Ministry, I would like to offer condolences to the family of young Jaden Joseph and the community at ASJA Boys’ College, as well as the family of Emmanuel Poteon and the community at Caroni Hindu Primary School. Both deaths occurred under extremely tragic circumstances.”

He said the Guidance Councillors and School Social Workers of Education’s Student Support Services Division (SSSD) have been trained to deliver counselling services online, and “have been doing so throughout the time of physical school closure.”

“Students who are observed to display behaviours which cause concern may be referred to SSSD through teachers or the principal, however, the SSSD records do not indicate that neither student was receiving individual attention at this time.”

“At the start of the COVID-19 school closure, student support groups were instituted to assist students in making the transition to being away from school, and support their mental health.”

He said the Ministry recognised some rural areas do not have online access and the SSSD has community outreach workshops to provide training for teachers and parents to help students.

“At this time, Student Support Services utilises various online and face-to-face preventative and responsive interventions at the individual and group levels that assist students in managing varying life challenges, as would be presented by the COVID-19 situation.

“These include individual counselling, therapeutic group work, psycho-assessment and intervention, debriefings,

Support Groups (parent and student, parenting in education sessions,psycho-educational session for students, teacher information sessions, sensitisation and awareness workshops, seminars, training,” Rambharat said.