Minister of Education Priya Manickchand says that some 536 pupils were absent from this year’s sitting of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), which was held on August 4 and 5.
The minister said this while answering questions at a press conference held at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) following the arrival of more than 146,000 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday afternoon.
These vaccines are expected to be used in the immunisation of children between the ages of 12 and 18, as efforts get underway for the reopening of schools come September 6. Already, the education ministry has received permission from parents to vaccinate more than 4,000 children.
Even as parents are being strongly encouraged to grant permission for their children to be vaccinated, unvaccinated children will be allowed to attend physical classes.
Teachers, however, are being advised to get vaccinated; if they are not, they will be required to submit proof that they are not infected with the coronavirus by taking a PCR COVID-19 test at a private facility.
Minister Manickchand said that much emphasis has been placed on reopening schools because online learning, despite the many interventions from the ministry, has not allowed all children, everywhere to be equally engaged.
This, she said, is happening globally. In May, a UNICEF study found that around 214 million children – or 1 in 7 children globally – have missed more than three-quarters of their in-person learning. And, numerous United Nations (UN) agencies published a joint framework for the safe reopening of schools.
“The learning loss has been recorded as significant and the likelihood of premature school leaving- what we call here in Guyana as dropouts- was very high,” Manickchand said on Tuesday.
And she lamented, “… we’re already seeing evidence of that in the Guyana education system. At the last NGSA, we had more than 536 students who did not turn up, at 10-years-old and 11-years-old, to write the exam although they were registered for it.”
At the end of the examinations earlier this month the education ministry released a statement indicating that of the 14, 400 candidates, 95 per cent turned up to write their examination in school at the 503 examination centres across Guyana.
Then, the ministry said that efforts would be made to search for and reintegrate the remaining five per cent. On Tuesday, Manickchand assured members of the public that this would be done, to prevent these pupils from being part of the world statistics on school dropouts during the pandemic.
She, however, noted, “… but there is going to be a time if we stay out of school that the loss will be irreversible and we don’t want to reach there.”
And, it is for this reason she posits that the reopening of schools is paramount. This will not be done on a universal basis, but on an individualised basis.
The Education Ministry previously said that based on the space and circumstances at each school individualised measures will be applied to ensure the safety of all.