GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Education Minister Priya Manickchand, says that schools will not reopen on September 7 as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“From the beginning, I promised that science, statistics, best practices from across the world, realities in Guyana, and our paramount duty to serve the best interests of our children, will inform all decisions we take regarding schooling and COVID-19,” she said.
The Education Minister, who has been meeting with several stakeholders since taking up her position last week, concerning education delivery and the way forward for the September school term said as a result of those meetings it was realised that most students have not been academically engaged in a structured manner from March to present.
She said the tremendous loss of income of families and the worry of the parents, teachers and community leaders were also revealed.
“This will result in premature school leaving or dropouts, with students not completing their education… We, therefore, cannot reopen schools on September 7th, 2020, as was previously scheduled. All schools shall remain closed to face-to-face teaching for September, while we continue to review and evaluate the evolution of the disease and our schools’ readiness.”
Manickchand said as a result of the implications, education delivery will continue; however, the solution will be to utilise innovative learning techniques, such as technology, including the Guyana Learning Channel.
She said works are in motion to have the channel broadcast to areas it has stopped broadcasting or has never broadcast, to ensure quality learning for all. Learning kits and packages, including print, are also being developed to deliver to specific categories of students. Teachers will be re-trained and an extra week or so may be added to the term when schools reopen.
“We will have to use blended, multifaceted learning approaches in the coming months. We will have to tailor our approach based on the knowledge of epidemiological patterns, physical spacing, internet connectivity, television reception, teacher availability,” the Education Minister said.
She said this decision was taken to protect students, teachers, and parents from the COVID-19 pandemic and that the Ministry of Education will continue working with the Ministry of Health to develop safety protocols and the way forward for the eventual reopening for face-to-face learning.
“We know that children are writing regional and other examinations and assessments, and we have a duty to ensure that their maximum readiness for those exams. We also know that we must keep our teachers, children and their families safe.”
The Education Minister said that once face-to-face classes resume, consideration will have to be given to an adjusted the classroom schedule.
“We may have to have an extended school week; we may have to do a rotation of students and teachers. These are all being examined with urgency and we will let you know as we make these important decisions,” she said, expressing the hope that some of these initiatives will be operable by the second week in September.
“President Irfaan Ali is deeply concerned about the effect of COVID on our children’s education and wellbeing, in the short, medium and long-term. His Excellency asked me early on for an urgent practical plan on the way forward for students,” Manickchand said.