Education Ministry urges teachers to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 tests at own expense

See statement from the Ministry of Education:

The new school year (2021 – 2022) will begin on September 6, 2021, and the Ministry of Education stands committed to ensuring that schools are reopened.

This commitment remains resolute particularly because of the feedback provided during answers on polls and surveys and consultations with our stakeholders inclusive of teachers and parents. Parents, particularly, have been consistent in their calls for us to re-open schools for all levels and teachers have been clear to us that the efficacy of their engagements when not face to face, although just as intense, are dubious.

All schools were closed to face to face teaching in March 2020 when Guyana started recording positive COVID-19 cases. At that time, there was no treatment or mechanism to stop the community spread of the virus, hence schools were closed to keep our students, teachers and support staff safe while simultaneously reducing the chances for a community spread nationally.

It has been over a year that Guyana and the world over have been dealing with COVID-19 and its effects. During that time, thankfully, scientists from across the globe have developed several vaccines that can be used to condition our immune systems to respond to the virus should someone become infected.

The benefit provided by these vaccines is to prevent persons from becoming severely ill by the virus, hospitalised or even dying. Also, the vaccine reduces the likelihood of an infected person spreading the virus and reduces the likelihood of a vaccinated person from becoming infected.

This is to reduce the spread of the virus and consequently ridding ourselves of the harmful effects of the virus and the virus altogether.

Due to the closure of schools globally, international studies and our local experience revealed that students suffered tremendous learning loss. Some of our students have also dropped out of school. This situation is expected to worsen if our school doors remain closed longer.

So far, thousands of our teachers have been vaccinated against COVID-19. We recognize and commend them for the necessary and lifesaving step taken to protect themselves, their families, their students and all of Guyana.

We take this opportunity to urge those teachers who have not yet taken a vaccine, to use this period, before the reopening of school to visit a vaccination site and be administered one of the available COVID-19 vaccines. The Ministry of Health currently has the Astra Zeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines available for the adult population.

If any of our teachers have questions on these vaccines or any related question, the Ministry of Education has solicited the assistance of three doctors to provide responses and they can be reached on telephone numbers: 650 – 2289 (Dr. Farah December), 650 – 2308 (Dr. Oneka Scott) and 650 – 2312 (Dr. Ertenisa Hamilton). This is to provide teachers with an opportunity to speak with medical professionals and have their concerns addressed.

Teachers who do not wish to be administered any of the above-mentioned vaccines will be required to submit a negative PCR test once a week. This test is to be done at an approved private facility.

Teachers who do not report for duty will be marked absent.                                                                                     These measures also apply to the ancillary staff of each school (cleaners, administrative and other support staff). These measures will be captured in the next Gazetted Order for the new month.

The Ministry of Education will provide to all teachers face masks, face shields, sanitizing agents (environ) and spray bottles to assist in ensuring they are safe upon their return to the classroom.

As the Ministry has said on previous occasions, the reopening will not be the same for every school. Based on the space and circumstances at each school individualized measures will be applied to ensure the safety of all.

Schools will be ready for reopening and parents along with teachers will be informed of the individualized reopening measures for the respective schools in the coming days.