School reopens Nov. 9 for CSEC, CAPE, TVET students
– Minister Manickchand
– special care packages for teachers, students
– infrastructure readiness for students in-line
A Cabinet decision has paved the way for the reopening of schools for classroom learning for students preparing to write the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and learners at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, after seven months of closure.
Minister of Education, Hon. Priya Manickchand today, made this announcement during a press conference.
“Schools shall reopen for face-to-face engagement for the cohort of students in grades ten, eleven, twelve (that is, formerly known as fourth, fifth and sixth form) and for all practical instruction centres and technical vocational education centres from the ninth day of November, 2020,” the Minister said.
The decision follows numerous multi-stakeholder fora the Ministry held with the Ministry of Health, medical professionals, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Regional Education Officers (REdOs), headteachers, teachers, parents, students and others.
“From teachers, parents and students, we learnt of their deep worry that exam students were not being engaged adequately, in a way that would allow them to be prepared for examinations they are most likely to sit in 2021. So worried are students that we have received alarming numbers of requests from students to repeat the year they feel they would lose if we continue to stay out of school,” said Minister Manickchand.
While the Ministry undertook a blended approach to teaching, some students did not have access to the internet, television or radio, media which the Ministry used as means of education delivery.
Further, even though the recent inclusion of print packages provided an additional source of learning for students, the absence of a teacher to explain the content also proved to be challenging.
“Nothing we do will match the effectiveness or the value of a trained teacher in front of the classroom,” the Education Minister said.
No clear CXC guidance
Minister Manickchand further explained that the decision was imminent since CXC has offered no clear guidance to its regional counterparts on the way forward for the CSEC and CAPE exams.
“From CXC we learnt that the body had not yet decided what the exam would be and what form it would take. But last week an advertisement was published that invited students to get registered for the May/June sitting of the exams,” she indicated.
Unlike the National Grade Six Assessments (NGSA) which is set and administered by Guyana, the CXC exams are managed by the Council and as such the Ministry has to put measures in place to ensure that Guyanese students are not left behind.
School preparation and care packages
Based on discussions with REdOs, the Ministry has made preparations at schools nationwide over the past few months, to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary infrastructure to facilitate reopening, including: adequate ventilation, installation of sinks for handwashing, washrooms and running water.
Additional measures are also in place to provide assistance for teachers and students.
“We have procured masks and face shield and sanitising products and vitamin support for our teachers, and for our students who are to return, care packages. Thermometers will be provided to all schools. Adequate signage and information have also been acquired and will be widely available and conspicuously posted,” Minister Manickchand said.
She added, “from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, we learnt that diligent wearing of masks correctly, practicing hand sanitisation and staying appropriately distanced could result in populations being as safe as if they were in a permanent lockdown.”
In keeping with the health guidelines, students and teachers who may be displaying any of the symptoms or are unwell are advised to get tested.
As she had in earlier announcements, the Minister reiterated that some schools will have extended school weeks and rotations of students and teachers. Further, headteachers and teachers are at liberty to choose the best methods of learning based on each school’s unique circumstances.
“Each school and institution will have the freedom to set its own timetable to get teaching done effectively and may do what is necessary to effectively deliver the education needed, once they comply with the gazetted COVID-19 order,” Minister Manickchand said.
The Ministry will provide direct guidance for syllabi completion, where requested or needed, based on observations by technical heads. Text books and digital resources will also be provided and teachers of other grades will also be called out to assist.
While 50 per cent of the buses in the system were found to be inoperable, Minister Manickchand committed to providing transportation for students based on the Ministry’s capacity.
Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer,Dr. Marcel Hutson said the Ministry has a robust system in place following meetings with the Guyana United Minibus Union, Guyana Police Force and Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce’s Consumer Affairs Department.
Heavy police presence at transportation routes is also in motion to prevent gathering at bus parks by students, touting, and to ensure buses transporting students follow all protocols. Meanwhile, the Consumer Affairs Department has committed to using its platforms to disseminate information, and the United Minibus Union is providing guidance to students and drivers.
For students who will be returning to dormitories in the hinterland and coastland, the Ministry is putting measures in place to ensure their safety.
Infrastructure is in place to ensure the required amount of spacing and to ensure all sanitary facilities are up to standard.
Supervisors of students are also being engaged as part of ongoing consultations by the Ministry.
Special measures for teaching mothers
For teachers with younger children, the Minister said that schools are allowed to provide spaces to aid teachers during the instruction period.
“Accommodations can be made by the schools for teachers with younger children at home, who will not be returning to school just yet. We know that this is a real concern and believe that schools can create space for those younger children and provide the supervision,” Minister Manickchand added.
Students at the nursery, primary, and lower secondary levels are to remain engaged through the provisions the Ministry has already put in place, until all measures are set for a for a full-scale reopening of schools.