Gov’t committed to providing safe education for students
With schools reopening today, Minister of Education, Hon. Priya Manickchand, and a team of Ministers fanned out countrywide to observe how schools are utilising the COVID-19 measures to keep safe.
The Minister Manickchand said the exercise was not a “photo op” but rather, part of a larger assessment.
She said while it is entirely up to parents to send their children to school, they were provided with several options to ensure children complete their respective curricula.
“This is a serious exercise for us… It’s not a ‘you must do as we speak’ – we’re not in normal times. So, for this time, we are going to flex with many of the rules,” she said.
The Ministry had indicated transfers were also possible for students attending schools located far from their homes.
Minister Manickchand reiterated that it is the Ministry’s goal to ensure students are prepared for the 2021 examinations and no effort will be spared to ensure that each child is afforded that opportunity.
“We have to make sure we capture every single child. What we will be doing vigorously, is try to determine those who did not come – was that by choice because of COVID or have they already been lost to the system, in which case; we have to do all we can in terms of support to get these kids back in to finish their high school. We don’t want drop outs from this period,” she said.
Minister Manickchand said that assessments are ongoing in each administrative region to determine how many students are being engaged as well as the challenges faced by those who have not returned to school.
The United Nations has stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused “the largest disruption of education in history, having already had a near universal impact on learners and teachers around the world, from pre-primary to secondary schools, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, universities, adult learning, and skills development establishments.”
It noted that as a result, there will be “a disproportionately negative impact” on the most vulnerable students, especially those with limited access to resources for remote learning.
The Ministry of Education is cognisant that the situation at each school is different. As such, schools will be utilising a blended approach as they see fit.
“Different schools will use different approaches. We’re not using the big stick approach saying you must do this or you must do that. We’re giving schools the opportunity to set their own timetable and own schedule with the view that they know best what they have to do in getting our children learning,” the Minister explained.
Minister Manickchand said during the last few weeks, the most effective engagement that students have had was the worksheets the Ministry provided. Initially, the worksheets were meant for hinterland students who could not access television, radio or internet. However, the demand for it was countrywide and the worksheets will now be used as a blueprint should the country face a similar crisis in the future.
Headteachers at several schools indicated that the level of engagement is over 60 per cent with some schools reporting that 100 per cent of their student population is being engaged. Students also said they were eager to return to school.
Minister Manickchand visited Queen’s College, St. Rose’s High School, Brickdam Secondary and West Demerara Secondary School.
To ensure students are kept safe while at school, the Ministry has installed hand-washing stations near the entrance of all schools’ compounds and has distributed care packages for teachers, students and dormitory parents.
Some schools have augmented this by installing sanitation tunnels, additional hand-washing stations and hand sanitising dispensers in their buildings along with signage demonstrating proper handwashing techniques, social distancing reminders and other COVID-19 safety guidelines.