‘Batavia a place for all’
DPI, GUYANA, Monday, October 9, 2017
The “multi-nation” community of Batavia on the lower Cuyuni River is home to some four Indigenous tribes and other ethnicities. Batavia’s Toshao, Eyon Boyal has set a two-year benchmark to reduce the community’s school dropout rate and ensure that each child completes their secondary education.
Reversing school dropout in Batavia
Transportation is the number one reason for the community’s school dropout challenge, Toshao Boyal told the Department of Public Information (DPI). Batavia is an Indigenous island community located in the lower Cuyuni River, Region Seven. Getting around is done by boat.
The Batavia’s Primary School is located on Arian Island, the heart of the community. However, the area’s young people have to travel some 15 minutes to the town of Bartica for their secondary education.
Lack of a school boat and hesitancy from parents compounded the problem. “Some of the parents are not willing to send their children to stay in the dorms at Bartica Secondary School because of their beliefs,” Toshao Boyal noted. Parents are concerned about their children’s behaviour without their supervision, he explained.
Now that the community has acquired a school boat, Toshao Boyal is confident there will be a reverse in the community’s dropout rate. “I’m seeing that the issue of school dropout and children not being able to complete school is something that within the next two years we should be able to have more secondary school graduates,” he said.
This is Boyal’s second term as Toshao of Batavia and education is a focal point of his leadership. The Toshao is also a teacher at the community’s primary school. Education, the Toshao noted, is key for the development of Batavia.
Toshao Boyal has other projects that are targeted to young people as part of the community development project (CDP). “This year we are opening a play park for the children. We are also looking in the near future to put in place an internet café where we can have the children doing their homework and using the internet as a tool of educating themselves,” Boyal disclosed.
The Toshao said he is working with the Ministry of Telecommunication’s e-Gov Unit, as well as private sector, to realise the internet café. “We’re looking at different approaches,” he noted.
The current CDP being undertaken in the community, with support from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, is poultry rearing. Batavia’s women also benefited from a handicraft project, which the final products are sold in the community’s renowned craft centre. The community also benefits from the yearly Presidential Grant.
Giving back to the community
Youth development is important too for the approximately 450 residents of Batavia. Fitzroy McWatt, a resident, noted that “the focus was and still is on the younger generation” to ensure they can adequately contribute to their society and the country at large.
“I would like to see young people elevate themselves. They might not be able to come back into the community depending on the level they reach,” McWatt said.
McWatt, who has lived in Batavia for 30 years believes life in Batavia is suitable for the wholesome development of its young people. “Living in Batavia is very quiet and peaceful and unlike probably Georgetown. So, you can aspire to be what you want to be because the place is quiet you can study and you can focus your mind,” McWatt said.
Batavia’s central district, Arian Island, is where the primary school, a health centre, craft shop and recreational ground are located. Arian Island was named after a European evangelist who once occupied and developed eco-tourism on the island.
Like most Indigenous communities today, the residents of Batavia incorporate modern conveniences into their traditional practices. The residents there would farm or work in the logging and mining industry for a living.
Batavia, whose name is Dutch in origin, means Ancient District. It’s unique origin and mixed traditions make it a community unlike any other. “It’s nature at its best. You have rich indigenous culture. Batavia is a place for all,” Toshao Boyal boasted.
By: Tiffny Rhodius