By Bibi Khatoon
Education Minister Priya Manickchand on Friday said schools will not reopen for physical attendance of students next month and has advised that students remain academically engaged in whatever way possible as the Ministry develops safety protocols going forward.
Schools in Guyana have been closed since March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the way forward is unclear at this time as Guyana continues to see a rapid increase in the number of positive cases.
As of August 13, Guyana confirmed 631 cases of the deadly virus including 22 deaths.
The Education Minister, in a video statement released by the Department of Public Information (DPI), noted that “we cannot reopen schools on September 7, 2020, as was previously scheduled. All schools should remain closed to face-to-face teaching for the month of September while we continue to review and evaluate the evolution of the disease (COVID-19) and our schools’ readiness.”
Manickchand noted that little or no action was taken since schools closed in March to prepare the facilities, students, parents or teachers to reopen during a pandemic.
Following consultations with various stakeholders over the past week, the Ministry of Education was told of the fears of “premature school leaving and dropouts,” as well as the need to protect students and teachers from COVID-19.
“We must keep our teachers, children and family safe,” Manickchand noted.
She said the Ministry is working along with the Ministry of Health to “urgently develop a safety protocol for schools across the country and we’re actively and dedicatedly pursuing getting our schools physically ready.”
However, she said the closure of schools does not affect the ability for online learning.
Cognizant that one approach will not cater to students across the regions, the Minister said: “we will have to use blended, multi-faceted learning approaches in the coming months.”
Manickchand said the Ministry’s approach will be tailored based on the epidemiological patterns, physical spacing, internet connectivity, television reception, teacher availability and a range of other measures.
In the interim, curriculum content is being prepared for the Guyana Learning Channel as efforts are being made to ensure the channel reaches more communities across the country.
She added that learning kits and packages with print and other material to deliver to specific categories of students are being developed for online education.
“To be clear, we hope and intend to be ready with some of these initiatives as early as the second week of September so that most students can thereafter be actively engaged,” Manickchand added.
Circumstances may change depending on the evolution of COVID 19.
Additionally, teachers will be re-trained as far as possible “to deliver education differently” since once schools reopen, the school term may be adjusted while there may be an extended school week to allow for rotations of students and teachers.
“These are all matters we are still examining, albeit with urgency. We will let you know as we make those important decisions,” the Minister announced.