Some 63 per cent of local teachers have received their COVID-19 vaccines following efforts rolled out to boost vaccine acceptance.
Minister of Education Priya Manickchand says that the ministry’s “relatively soft approach” of encouraging vaccination cannot continue forever.
Over the past few months, teachers have been able to speak to medical professionals about their concerns before taking vaccines, they received preferential access to the Sputnik V second doses when there was a shortage and they have also received letters encouraging them to get vaccinated.
These efforts, the Education Minister explained, were part of that “soft approach” taken to encourage vaccination. These measures and others, she said, resulted in a greater uptake of vaccines- allowing more than 60 per cent of teachers to become vaccinated.
But, the minister emphasised that there must be more widespread vaccination so that children can return to full face-to-face classes as before.
There were declined performances observed in several subject areas in Guyana and across the Caribbean at this year’s Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE). And Manickchand said this evidences the need for a return to classes.
Importantly, too, she noted that declining performances were not seen just at these exit examinations. In fact, she said it was seen across the board. And, she opined that this was due to the learning losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“… there is a clock on when teachers get vaccinated.
“If people are not vaccinated, this will be something that lives with us forever as a result of which we need to find people who can deliver the face-to-face education,” she said.
The minister also cautioned all individuals that without being vaccinated, they will not be able to adequately participate in society. And, she reminded that as per the updated COVID-19 Emergency Measures published in the Official Gazette, only fully vaccinated people are allowed to enter public buildings, including institutions of learning.
Cognisant of that, she implored teachers to get vaccinated so that schools can reopen fully. Schools are currently operating on a rotational basis, with some children able to attend at least once per week.
Importantly, the Education Minister stopped short of saying that there will be sanctions handed down from the Education Ministry if teachers do not get vaccinated.
She also said, “In the interest of our students, in the interest of our children… we must return to the classrooms in a safe way and that means that we must advise ourselves individually and collectively of the necessity to get vaccinated.”