COVID-19: ‘Online learning just doesn’t work’ – Manickchand

-- says no other alternative to curb learning losses from pandemic

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By Isanella Patoir

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There has been a return to face-to-face classes as part of efforts to curb pandemic learning losses but as unvaccinated teachers are locked out of schools, the News Room was able to confirm that some children are not being taught online or otherwise.

Since the reopening of schools on September 06, there have been reports of students’ workload being greatly lessened when compared to the last term.

A parent on the East Coast of Demerara said her child, who is in Grade Five, only attends school one day per week for only half a day. And, it is only during this period that he is being taught; there are no online classes for him during the remaining four days.

During an interview with News Room on Tuesday, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand was asked if there is any provision for students to be taught as teachers continue to be locked out.

“How would there be provision? If you have a school with 23 teachers and 20 teachers are not vaccinated, three teachers cannot simply teach in the school,” Minister Manickchand responded.

Minister of Education Priya Manickchand (Photo: News Room/September 21, 2021)

According to her, the ministry also found that many students do not benefit from online learning; she referenced data that reveals effective learning happens when a teacher is standing in front of a classroom and so this was done to address gaps in learning generated from the pandemic.

“With a classroom of 32 children or 28 children you have like six children online consistently; so it doesn’t mean anything; it makes for a great headline and it could trick us all into believing we are teaching but the learning loss has been very evident,” the minister said.

Last week, Manickchand revealed that approximately 1,000 children in primary schools have dropped out as a result of the pandemic and closure of schools for over a year. Others in the secondary level have reportedly dropped out too.

Meanwhile, the updated COVID-19 Emergency measures for the month of September state that unvaccinated persons, including teachers, must present a negative PCR COVID-19 test before entering any building. Minister Manickchand said schools have been following this protocol.

Currently, only children 12 and older along with adults can be vaccinated in Guyana. These children are receiving the US-made Pfizer vaccines.

In the meantime, schools will remain open to continue to engage children. Minister Manickchand said this is necessary to prevent further learning losses.

“We have to be very careful that we didn’t fail our children in this time so that when they become adults, they wring their hands and say 30 years ago there was a pandemic and the government of the day or the teachers of the day, didn’t deal with it properly and as a result, we and our children and our whole lives are in shambles, we don’t want that to happen,” Minister Manickchand said.

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