170,000 public school children affected by COVID-19 closure
…Govt will continue financing education – Minister
Education Minister Priya Manickchand has disclosed that approximately 170,000 students from the public system have been affected by the closure of schools – a decision which was made after identifying the threats of COVID-19.
She was at the time presenting at the Extraordinary session of the Global Education Meeting (GEM), organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Manickchand told other leaders that students within the age of three years, six months; and fifteen years and over have been facing challenges. In Guyana, schools have been closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
Nevertheless, the Minister pointed out that Government has been proactive in protecting the country’s human capital while sustaining financing in education.
The purpose of the virtual meeting was mainly to highlight the importance of financing in education, particularly during COVID times so that the sector does not become overshadowed or that financing reduces due to economic decline. This is particularly since education can be an effective driver of economic recovery and sustainable development.
According to UNESCO, the 2020 GEM “provided a unique platform for exchange among high-level political leaders, policymakers and global education actors to protect and rethink education in the current and post-COVID-19 world and agree on global priority actions for educational recovery and progress in the Decade of Action for Sustainable Development”.
Schools in Guyana were reopened in early September. This was done using a blended method to address challenges of epidemiological patterns, internet access, and availability of resources through the usage of radio, the internet, the learning channel and work papers. In the hinterland regions, adequate workbooks and materials were provided where electricity and internet access are limited. Toolkits were also being procured with added textbooks to distribute to students.
Minister Manickchand had recognised that these mediums will never be able to fully replace the face-to-face classroom but was generated to minimise learning loss among children. As it relates to the tertiary institutions, the University of Guyana and Cyril Potter College of Education will also use an online modality as campuses remain closed.
The Ministry was also assessing the environment of schools across the country, to look at sanitisation stations, ventilation and other important aspects of reopening which needs to be catered for during a pandemic.
When schools are finally reopened post-pandemic, the Minister had signalled at diagnostic tests when the classrooms are finally reopened, to assess what has been learned and aspects of the curriculum which needs work.
In September, it was announced that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government would be reintroducing the school children’s cash grant as well as doubling the allowance for school uniform vouchers from January 2021.
To adequately finance education, Government said that not only would the grant be restored and increased to $15,000 but also, the allowance for uniforms would be doubled. This means that the uniform voucher allowance will be $4000 per child in the public school system.