By Isanella Patoir
Students, who attend schools with dormitory facilities, will now be required to isolate in the dorms for the rest of the school term or be transferred to a secondary school nearest to them, as the Education Ministry seeks to minimise the spread of COVID-19.
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand made the announcement on Tuesday during a meeting with parents of non-residential students at President’s College (PC).
The school, located at Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara, is one of the premier secondary schools in the country. The decision to have all students live in the dorms comes a day after eight students at the school tested positive for COVID-19.
The students will not be allowed to leave the school during the term; prior to the pandemic, they were allowed to leave the campus on weekends and holidays, but this will no longer be allowed as part of the Ministry’s measures to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.
There are 139 residential students who have already returned to the dorms at President’s College and a total of 151 are listed as non-residential students. The non-residential students live along the East Coast or in close proximity to the school and would normally travel every day to school via public or private transportation.
But while these students will have to remain on campus, there are 23 teachers from the school who will be travelling from their homes to campus; transportation will be provided for the teachers by President’s College.
“Dorms schools are different because if one person gets infected and we don’t know, you can spread it to the whole dorm and we end up in trouble.
“For this school and other dorms school, we have to take a different approach and the approach is that non-residents students have to stay in or we can transfer you only for this period to a school close to your home,” Minister Manickchand said to parents and students.
She made it clear that the non-residential students pose a risk of infecting the students in the dorms.
All students will be required to do a COVID-19 test before entering the dorms and if negative, that student will not leave the school until December 18, when the school term ends.
A quarantine area has also been set up at President’s College, while students await their COVID-19 results. Meanwhile, the Education Minister assured that the educators at the school will practice all safety measures in order to curb the spread of the disease.
“The staff is masked up, tested and picked up only in our transportation and with the students, there is not much intermingling outside of the school, you can visit your children but you will not be able to hug up and so on,” Minister Manickchand said.
Meanwhile, the students during the meeting inquired about the continuation of online learning at home but the Minister explained that it would be difficult for teachers at the school to engage students in the classroom as well as online.
But, according to Manickchand, if a large number of PC students decide to do online learning, then they can be accommodated at other schools which are currently engaged in full online classes, for example, Queen’s College.
Schools across Guyana reopened on Monday to cater for students in grades 10, 11 and 12, who are preparing for the 2021 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
The government is also hoping that with the reopening of schools, the long-lasting implications of COVID-19 can be minimised.
“We have learnt from studies around the world that the more we keep your children out of school, the more they will suffer from learning loss, that means they will forget things they knew, they will lose skills they have and they are more likely to drop out,” the Minister said.
The Ministry also made a commitment to support parents in whatever decision they take during this time, whether to assist with the transition to dorms life or a transfer for the students.
“Whichever option you chose, we will support it. There is no right or wrong, this is a personal decision you have to make for what’s good for your family.”
There is also a stringent COVID-19 health plan for the entire school to ensure the health and safety of every child and employee. While a number of parents have agreed to allow their children to stay in the dorms others have opted to for a transfer.
“Region Four is a nest of COVID-19, we are looking to protect our children; those who have to travel in public transportation, you are in trouble, conductors and drivers and even passengers travel without a face mask,” one parent lamented.