Grade 6 students to return to School on June 15; Teachers Union concerned

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Grade Six students who will be writing the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) on July 1 and 2 are expected to return to school on June 15 but with strict physical distancing guidelines in place.

Approximately 14,730 students are currently registered to write the NGSA at both public and private schools.

The students will be returning to prepare for the examinations but the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) is concerned about the protection of students and teachers from COVID-19.

The teachers will have to be in school three days prior to the reopening.

According to a correspondence seen by the News Room, the Department of Education has informed Primary School teachers that the students will be at schools on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:00h-13:00h.

No vending will be allowed at the facilities and as such, pupils are expected to take their lunch to school which will be used during a half-hour lunch break.

The students are also expected to walk with their own hand sanitizers and wear masks before entering the school.

The Ministry will only be providing masks on July 1 and 2 to write the NGSA examinations.

According to the document, their temperatures will be tested by members from the Ministry of Public Health and parents will not be allowed beyond the gate.

Transportation “must be arranged for pupils to return home,” the document stated.

Seating arrangements have been changed to allow for only one student per bench while cleaners are expected to sanitize the interior and exterior of the building four times per day.

If any student shows symptoms of illness during this period, the Ministry said the sickbay areas will be utilised.

Even with all of these systems in place, the GTU believes that the examinations should be written in September as it is still concerned about the safety of teachers and students.

Mark Lyte, President of the GTU, in an interview with the News Room on Wednesday said “the Union remains extremely concerned…the teachers, the learners, the staff members, as well as families are at risk.”

Guyana Teachers’ Union President Mark Lyte

“We recognise that the protocol on paper are pretty decent, however, we remain concerned that Guyana still has cases remaining,” he added.

Guyana has 71 active cases remaining as of June 2.

The Union met with the Ministry of Education last week. The Union said in a subsequent statement that it “will also be monitoring the preparedness of schools based on MoE’s COVID19 proposal.”

Lyte also said the three weeks given to prepare for the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) and five weeks for CSEC and CAPE are insufficient.

“They’ve been out of school for more than two months and that is a concern at the level of preparation bearing in mind that while some children might have gotten a chance to engage in an online platform, not all students had that privilege and we can’t say there has been equity,” Lyte said.

“It will have an impact on children realizing their true potential because here you’re asking children who are relaxed for close to three months doing nothing at home basically…to come into the exam setting and perform to their true potential,” he added.

The NGSA is the entrance exams used to place students in secondary schools.

Guyana closed schools since March 16 and while some private schools are hosting online classes, the majority of the public school teachers have not been able to work with their students due to unreliable internet connection.

Instead, the Ministry of Education has placed Nursery, Primary and Secondary school materials online to assist parents in helping their children.

Some of these contents have also been printed in the daily newspapers and broadcasted on radio.

The Education Ministry promised to issue a gazetted order on Wednesday outlining its plans for students writing examinations this year.

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