Congratulations to students, parents, Minister Priya, MoE – APNU/AFC out of place

I unreservedly congratulate the Guyanese children, their parents and teachers on their performance in the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) exams of 2021. The Minister and her team at the Ministry of Education did an excellent job in ensuring a smooth NGSA 2021. Gratitude is also due to the CXC Team that administered the exams from start to finish.
The Guyanese children, as they often do, made Guyana proud. From CXC’s announcement last week, it appears that in the imminent announcement of CXC and CAPE results for 2021, Guyanese children will top the Caribbean. Guyana is anxiously waiting to celebrate our children again in a few days. In a world where bad news dominates, this week and in coming days, our children have made, and will make, us proud, no “ands, ifs and buts”.
The leadership of Guyana’s Opposition must begin to learn time and place. The conditional congratulations were simply out of place. There must be times when this country stands as one. Our children did good enough for Guyana to have the willpower to stand as one. The Opposition, therefore, squandered another opportunity to demonstrate that Guyana comes first. Using anything and everything to find something to be critical, politicising anything and everything, is not a winning strategy to gain the controls of Government. In fact, it is wearisome, exasperating, and plain stupid. CXC conducted Guyana’s NGSA 2021 as they have done for several years, but this year they were given more autonomy than ever, to ensure no one in Guyana can and could interfere.
Minister Priya Manikchand and her team must be congratulated for placing responsibility for Guyana’s NGSA entirely in the hands of one of the world’s most prestigious examination authorities.
Because of COVID-19, the education sector in countries around the world has been severely disrupted. Studies have confirmed learning losses among children in every country where such studies have been done, mainly in developed countries, but also in some large developing countries. It is expected that learning losses among children eventually will be confirmed for every country. As for assessment exams, thousands around the world have been deferred and cancelled. It is remarkable, therefore, that Guyana was able to conduct its National Grade 6 Exams (commonly called the Common Entrance Exams) and the children performed as well as in any previous year. It is a tribute to the children who were able to write the exams, and to their parents and teachers. That more children scored higher marks to obtain places in Grade A schools, that qualification marks were good enough to place most children in a secondary school, means Guyana is making accelerated progress in removing Primary Tops, which provided a level of secondary education. For this alone, our children and their teachers deserve our unconditional support and congratulation.
It has been more than eighteen months since COVID-19 has brought chaos to our classrooms. Around the world, more than 2 trillion hours of in-person schooling have been lost. COVID-19 has been a direct assault against the right of children to an education. It has been a challenge for governments in their pursuit to ensure every child has an education. Online education became, and continues to be, the alternative, but after eighteen months, it is clear there is no substitute for in-person education, even if online education remains a good addition. In any case, around the world, one in three children had no access to online technology. As much as we tried, many children in Guyana had major difficulties with online education. That our NGSA 2021 children confronted the COVID-19 chaos and came out on top is not merely testimony of the resilience of our children, but signals that our children are capable of heights we have not yet dared dream of.
In a global survey done by Save the Children, it was found that seven out of every ten children have learnt little during the pandemic so far. There were many reasons for this deficit in learning. Almost half of the children claimed they could not understand the homework. Almost half confirmed they either had no access to, or only limited access to, the internet. More than 25% of the children had no one at home to help them. Around the world, access to school materials became, and is still, an issue. Most of the children with little internet access, with no one to help, without school materials, are children from poor families. COVID-19 did not cause, but did expose, this poverty and inequity that still exists decades after we vowed at the UN to eliminate poverty and inequity. We have failed miserably.
Every day, in Guyana and around the world, we see the mounting deaths from COVID-19. But the end story will show that our children are among the biggest victims. Their lives are being impacted before their own eyes and in front of all of us in ways that are profound. In the end, our children will live with learning losses that will impact their socio-economic status for the rest of their lives. It is why we must do all we can now to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19. It is why we must take hope, and we must be grateful that our children were undaunted by COVID-19 at NGSA 2021. Congratulations to every child that sat the NGSA – you did Guyana proud.