There are numerous risks children may be exposed to if they are kept out of schools for long periods of time and as such, UNICEF representative Nicolas Pron has posited that it is important for children to return to schools.
Pron said this while providing brief remarks at a ceremony to launch the COVID-19 vaccination rollout for children in Guyana on Thursday afternoon at the St. Stanislaus College in Georgetown.
The representative explained that the extended closure of schools can have an adverse impact on children, especially the most vulnerable children who have limited access to online learning and may be exposed to violence, abuse and neglect.
It was also pointed out that children make important and healthy connections with friends and teachers while attending schools. This process of socialisation is strained due to the virtual learning medium that has been adopted due to the measures instituted to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The extended closure of schools, Pron also said, may result in children never catching up. And, he warned: “The longer children remain out of school, the less likely they are to return.”
It is for these reasons the representative emphasised that it is important for children to return to schools.
Earlier this week, the Minister of Education Priya Manickchand also said that if schools are kept closed, the learning loss may be irreversible for some children. As such, she explained that the decision was made to reopen schools – not universally -but on an individualised basis based on the readiness of the schools and staff.
As the local authorities prepare for the reopening of schools on September 6, Pron recommended three key priorities for the safe return and recovery of children.
He said that targeted programmes to allow children to access services that meet their learning needs while guaranteeing their health and psychosocial well-being are important. He also contended that remedial learning strategies to help students recover whatever learning they might have lost while away from face-to-face classes are important.
And, he said that teachers must be supported as they try to address the learning losses that children might have experienced. Teachers should also be supported in their efforts to integrate digital technologies in the classroom setting, to allow for a more hybrid approach to learning.
On Friday, the Ministry of Education will provide an update on the reopening of schools. It is expected that some schools will be allowed to return to the face-to-face setting.