Students of Guyana’s highland regions have a savior in Headteacher Quado Vancooton, a dedicated educator for more than 18 years, who has made it his life’s career to travel to remote villages of Guyana to educate underprivileged children in indigenous villages.
Caribbean Life caught up with Vancooton recently, deep in the rainforest protected system area named Iwokrama, where he was welcoming students for the day’s instruction, in the Kubupukari Primary School building, that also facilitates a nursery and high school.
After teaching in the capital city of Georgetown for many years, Vancotten, one in just a small batch of teachers, felt it was important to travel to remote villages to educate students who may be left behind because of their geographical location, lack of teachers, and challenging ways to get to school.
The school has a total of 103 boys and girls, with just three teachers, a difficult task said Vancotten, who noted that there was a shortage of educators, a grave disservice to the 30-square-mile village.
Many students travel by foot through dense forest. A student was seen transporting his sibling by bicycle, while a mother, carried three of her children on a motorbike. Other boys and girls walked through thick vegetation trails to get to school for the 9 am start of the school day.
Vancooten, who brings a wealth of experience in teaching to the institution, explained that the Kurupukari Primary located in Fairview Village, is close to the Kurupukari River, hence the name it kept, after the school was built, and now maintained by the Iwokrama International Centre.
Iwokrama, an eco-friendly habitat, was established in 1996 under a joint mandate from the government of Guyana and the Commonwealth Secretariat to manage the Iwokrama forest, a reserve of 371,000 hectares of rainforest.
The head teacher is passionate about imparting his knowledge to the students, and is inspiring students to follow in the footsteps of one of his students when he was a head teacher in Mainstay Lake, Essequibo. That student graduated and went on to become a teacher in the village. He said this was one of his success stories.
“I enjoy going to work in remote areas of Guyana to teach, because there are so many underprivileged children in the hinterland areas, who need to be educated. There are just a few of us teachers who travel to these regions,” said Vancooten who praised the sister of Lucian Williams, his former student, for her commitment to educating students of her village, where she is a headteacher.
“I would like to inspire students to become professional teachers, and give back to their villages. I am encouraging students to seek higher learning, so that they could stay in their villages and impart that knowledge. Teachers are always needed,” said Vancooten.
The students though bashful, paused for a moment and looked on in awe as a group of professionals from Georgetown and New York, led by Ecologist and Director of Iwokrama, Dr. Raquel Thomas-Caesar, engaged them in conversation. Some smiled for “selfies,” and later enjoyed a traditional indigenous choreography, performed by fellow students.