There have been concerns over the Guyana Teachers’ Union’s support for certain vaccination requirements to ensure the safe reopening of schools but Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand is calling on the union and teachers to do the responsible thing and help prevent irreversible learning losses among children.
She made this call on Tuesday while responding to questions posed by the News Room at a press conference held following the arrival of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) announced its withdrawal from participating in the present assessment of schools and other planned engagements with the education ministry due to vaccine requirements put in place by the ministry.
The new requirements state that teachers who do not wish to take any of the COVID-19 vaccines will be required to submit the results of a PCR COVID-19 test, from a private facility, showing that they have not been infected with the novel coronavirus.
In response to the GTU’s announcement, Manickchand highlighted that the teachers’ union is an important stakeholder and an important partner in the education of children. The ministry and the union have been collaborating to ensure that schools are ready for reopening.
“… and particularly in this period where we need every person, organisation and body to apply all the sense they have to moving us past this place where our children are out of schools,” she said.
If schools are kept closed, Manickchand said that the learning loss may be irreversible for some children.
It is for this reason that the decision was made to reopen schools – not universally, but on an individualised basis. The Education Ministry said that based on the space and circumstances at each school individualised measures will be applied to ensure the safety of all.
And, vaccination is an integral aspect in the reopening of schools to ensure that the children and teachers are kept safe. Becoming vaccinated with COVID-19 also reduces an individual’s chances of getting seriously ill or even hospitalised with the disease COVID-19.
“We have a duty, the state has a duty to educate children and we hope that we see the necessary partnerships to see this happen,” Minister Manickchand said.
She later added, “… we expect to see them (the Executive Members of the Teachers’ Union) doing the responsible thing which is to encourage their membership and those who are not members as well as parents and children to take this vaccine.”
When asked if she was concerned that teachers might not return to schools, the minister stated that she was sure that teachers appreciate the value of returning to classrooms and engaging their learners there, again.
According to her, teachers are aware of the learning difficulties that many children have faced during the pandemic, due to the requirements of virtual learning.