As the Ministry of Education (MoE) led by the Honourable Minister Priya Manickchand, continues to meet stakeholders on plans for the reopening of schools for CSEC and CAPE students, more than 900 Regions One, Two, Four, Five, Six, Eight, Nine and Ten teachers were engaged by way of a Zoom meeting yesterday and today.
Minister Manickchand told the teachers that it was the MoE’s belief that it will be a prudent approach to consult with the teachers of these examination students in order to finalise the best possible approach in relation to a reopening. The Education Minister said that although COVID-19 has presented endless challenges, it has also provided opportunities. The Minister said ordinarily she may not have been able to engage so many teachers at the same time, but with the pandemic and how things have changed, she is able to do so.
In addressing the core issue of the reopening of schools, Minister Manickchand told the teachers that the MoE has very limited options in this regard because of the posture taken by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). This body has started advertising dates for registration for students sitting the 2021 CAPE and CSEC exams.
It is for this reason that urgent actions have to be taken so that Guyana’s cohort of CSEC and CAPE students are adequately prepared to sit those examinations when a date is announced. The Education Minister said it is not a case of if the exams will be written, but when, so she called on teachers to partner with the Education Ministry in this regard.
She told the teachers she understands not only their concerns but everybody else’s. However, she noted that the Ministry of Education cannot do anything. The Minister said that everyone has to appreciate as we are dealing with the lives of young people. They, according to Minister Manickchand, have dreams about going to universities and other goals that they have set themselves and not preparing them to write the examinations is not an option since CXC is moving ahead with its plans.
The Education Minister assured the teachers that when schools eventually reopen, how the teachers are timetabled will be a decision for the school administration. However, she cautioned that if the school fails to timetable teachers the MoE will. Minister Manickchand said that allowing this flexibility will ensure solutions and approaches are adopted that best suits each school’s unique situation.
She assured the teachers that at the level of the Ministry, care packages will be provided to each teacher, which will include sanitisation materials, masks and other similar supplies. The Ministry of Education is presently installing additional sinks and toilets and is getting all schools ready for reopening.
The teachers who spoke were in agreement with the MoE on reopening of schools for the CSEC and CAPE students. Head of Department (HOD) for Science at Covent Garden Secondary, Mr Akeem Wilson told the meeting that he is elated at the decision of the MoE. He said that he has been going beyond the call of his duties and was able to ensure his students complete all their required School-Based Assessments (SBAs). He said even before the MoE contemplated this move, he met with the parents of his students and put his plans in motion and urged teachers to go the extra mile for their students.
Another teacher, Mr Ossie Nedd, who is HOD for Agriculture Science at Bladen Hall Multilateral said the MoE’s decision is timely. Mr Nedd said that it would have been impossible for his students to complete their SBAs at home and that face-to-face contact is vital for his subject area. He said while there will be no issue teaching the theory virtually, to attempt the same approach with the practical is an impossibility.
Expressing similar sentiments was Ms Shampattie Samaroo, a CSEC Social Studies teacher at the Corentyne Comprehensive High School. She said that although she has been able to reach many of her students, some have not been great with their attendance to Zoom classes. The teacher said what is more surprising is that some of the students who have not been attending have access to the internet, but they have not been attending classes when they are scheduled. She said that to open school is the only solution to this problem since SBAs have to be completed and when the students are at school this makes the effort much more achievable.
Also addressing the teachers, Assistant Chief Education Officer – Secondary (Ag.) Mr Ameer Ali said the Ministry will ascertain at what stage students are with their SBAs and their Internal Assessments (IAs) and develop a plan customised for individual schools or groups of schools that will allow students to complete the SBAs within the time frame set out by CXC for the 2021 examinations.
The importance of textbooks was explained to the teachers by the Deputy Chief Education Officer- Development, Ms Volika Jaikishun. To this end, she urged the teachers to ensure all textbooks are returned by the previous exam students. She also impressed upon teachers to ensure proper records on first-day attendance are collected when school reopens so that the MoE can make interventions if needed.