Operation Recovery

There is no uncertainty that COVID-19 has significantly affected the level of learning of children, and more so impacted the high dropout rate.
Some time ago, after the reopening of schools, Education Minister Priya Manickchand had said that, at the primary level, at least 1000 children had dropped out of school due to the pandemic.
It is therefore a good and most welcoming move that the Education Ministry has launched “Operation Recovery” in all Education Districts. It is important that the aim of the operation – to find those primary school students who have been continuously absent from school since the restart – be achieved.
Absenteeism from school can thwart the educational development of our children, thus “Operation Recovery” would see education officers going into communities to find students who have either been absent since the restart of school, or missed the just concluded NGSA mock exams.
In giving a synopsis of the venture, the Education Ministry has said that the “exercise aims to ascertain the location of the students and the reasons behind their absenteeism, so that a determination can be made about how the Ministry can assist these students with returning to school.”
To quote the Ministry’s statement: “The Ministry of Education remains committed to keeping school doors open and having as many of our pupils back in school and where students failed to come to school, to determine what needs they may have and to attempt to meet those needs. The Ministry believes firmly that urgent, practical, sustained measures such as teaching and learning from a consolidated curriculum, the provision of textbooks, re-training of teachers, using technology in the classroom, and Operation Recovery will mitigate against the predicted loss to our students and country.”
Absenteeism, however, is not limited to primary schools alone. Minister Manickchand had said some months ago that, at the secondary level, many students who had signed up to write the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) did not show up for those exams.
“…we are beginning to see and feel tangibly the effects of this school closure that has been predicted by UNESCO,” Manickchand had said in response to the continuous rise in school dropouts, adding that “we can’t afford to lose our children. We simply can’t. It would be us dooming them to a life of poverty and hardship. Because we all know that the one sure way to be comfortable and have plenty, and be able to hear, understand and interpret things for oneself; the only sure way is through a solid education.”
The rate of dropouts brought on by the pandemic has to be curtailed, and quick measures such as “Operation Recovery” must be implemented as fast as possible to bring this under control.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the operations of the education systems of most countries in the world like it has challenged Guyana’s, since generally their curricula are delivered in face-to-face classrooms, where the probability of transmitting the virus increases exponentially. There is no doubt that the Education Ministry, and by extension the Government, has done a remarkable job in terms of the reopening of schools and for learning to continue for students across the country. It was President Dr Irfaan Ali who had said last year that the global situation with children being out of school is indeed “frightening”.
To quote President Ali: “Many countries are already giving frightening reports in terms of the impact. I’ve been travelling around this country, and I know I’ve seen children who ought to be in school, they are out of the system. So, we have to get back to school…to create the conditions to ensure that we get back to school, and that is what we are aiming for.”
No one should underestimate the level of planning and the kind of resources that are needed to ensure that academic learning continues and students and teachers are safe in these challenging times.
The Education Ministry must be commended for the work it has done to ensure learning continues.