By Vishani Ragobeer
Pupils preparing to sit the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) later this year were able to gauge their readiness through a ‘mock examination’ last month.
Information provided by the Ministry of Education, however, has revealed that about 1,300 pupils from all across Guyana were absent from that preparatory examination.
“Generally, in Guyana, if you’re absent from the exams, they’re not coming (to schools),” Minister of Education Priya Manickchand said on Thursday at the Sparta Primary School in Region Two.
Later, during an interview with the News Room, the Education Minister highlighted that these children who were absent from the examination were not from a few pockets in Guyana. Instead, absenteeism was recorded all across the country.
And she said, “It’s very important that they come back to school.”
Based on reports globally, the COVID-19 pandemic and the protracted closure of schools has resulted in learning losses. A recent World Bank report stated that the lower-than-optimal levels of educational engagement suggest “severe learning losses and an increase in drop-out rates.”
Further, the report noted that these learning losses and dropout rates have “grave implications” for the accumulation of human capital in countries.
Because of these worrying implications, the Education Ministry has launched “Operation Recovery”- an initiative geared at visiting communities, findings the pupils who have been absent from schools and getting them back into classrooms.
With the 1,300 children absent, more than 500 children have already been located. The ministry will now work with families and help them to send those children to schools.
Last September, the minister said that about 1,000 primary school children, generally, had dropped out of schools, illustrating the learning losses and challenges emanating from the pandemic.
As such, beyond pupils, Manickchand said that she is certain there are many more children who may have dropped out from schools countrywide.
“We are pretty sure that we’re not going to be able to defy the predictions that children will stay home after two years of closure as a result of which, we will have to have a sustained long term approach to recovering our children to make sure that we don’t lose them to the dropout syndrome,” the Education Minister said.
On Wednesday, Manickchand indicated that she is looking to have schools at every level fully reopen after the Easter break in April.
According to the Education Minister, this move will allow the education sector to better address the issue of learning loss. Minister Manickchand added that having children back in school fully will mean that all Guyanese have to act responsibly as it relates to COVID-19 since it is not going anywhere.
On Thursday, she also told the News Room that the ministry will not be dropping any mask requirements and the local education authorities will seek to ensure that children are kept safe.