Education Ministry on alert for potential dropouts as schools reopen

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The Education Ministry is on high alert now for children who might have dropped out of school now that the phased and full return to face-to-face classes commenced on Monday.

“… now that they have to come to school, we will know how many of them are missing, if any at all, at this time,” Chief Education Officer (CEO) Dr. Marcel Hutson told reporters at the sidelines of a visit to Queen’s College on Monday morning.

Chief Education Officer (CEO) Dr. Marcel Hutson addressing students of Queen’s College (Photo: News Room/ April 25, 2022)

There have been fears that hundreds of children dropped out of schools during extended closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a recent Grade Six mock examination, about 1,300 children were absent. And on Monday, Dr. Hutson said that the Education Ministry had only been able to find about half of those children during a countrywide initiative known as ‘Operation Recovery’.

With the reopening of schools, the CEO said that Operation Recovery would be expanded beyond Grade Six pupils and focus on children in all levels, once they are found absent from schools.

“We will get a good opportunity now to see who (are) coming and who (are) not coming to school in terms of our students,” Dr. Hutson posited.

Other learning losses, such as lower student engagement and unequal learning, are feared. And the return to full face-to-face classes is expected to curtail these losses.

Meanwhile, the CEO further emphasised that with schools returning to some level of normalcy, all stakeholders must aid in helping to reintegrate children into the education system.

COVID CONCERNS

From Monday (April 25), pupils in Year Two (nursery) and in Grades Five and Six (primary); alongside students in Grades Nine, 10, 11 and 12 (secondary) will return to full face-to-face classes.

Then on Thursday, April 28, pupils in Grades Three and Four (primary) and Grade Eight (secondary) are expected to return to school.

Students at Queen’s College during their Monday morning assembly on the first day of the August school term (Photo: News Room/ April 25, 2022)

Finally, on Tuesday, May 3, Year One pupils (nursery); those in Grades One and Two (primary) and students in Grade Seven (secondary) will make their return to face-to-face classes.

These learners are, however, returning amid an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And the CEO emphasised that all schools are required to adhere to key COVID-19 guidelines: mask-wearing and constant santisation.

He also said that vaccination of both teenagers and teachers has always been on the “frontburner”.

The CEO also noted that there has been a phased return to the full reopening of schools to allow the Education Ministry to “watch and assess the situation”.

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