Reopening of schools dependent on COVID-19 statistics – Education Minister
…to meet with Ministry staff today to determine way forward
Newly-appointed Education Minister Priya Manickchand has indicated that the reopening of schools is dependent on a number of factors, including science and statistics, in light of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Manickchand told Guyana Times, following her appointment on Wednesday afternoon, that she was actively considering a plan to ensure that both teachers and students were safe in light of the steadily increasing COVID-19 numbers.
This is the second time Manickchand, an Attorney-at-law, will be serving as Education Minister. She was first appointed to the post under the Donald Ramotar Administration from 2011 to 2015 and was once again called to serve under President Dr Irfaan Ali.
“Paramount of our consideration will be how we treat with COVID, and our teachers and their families to make sure everybody stay safe. We have to balance children’s right to be educated with our duty to make sure we protect the people we’ve sworn to serve,” the Minister stated.
Manickchand noted that schools were traditionally scheduled to open by September and in light of that, she explained that the Government has already started looking into best practices and drawing from those to formulate a plan.
“We have to use the science, medicine, statistics and best practices around the world to inform us whether we would be opening or not. I know part of what parents are anxious about is the lack of inf
ormation. I commit to keeping our population informed every step of the way.
“I can’t say exactly what the next move it. I know what we are considering, but it would have to be integrated with what Health (Ministry) knows and with what other ministries know. That would be our paramount concern right now,” she added.
The Education Minister noted that while her Party’s manifesto has covered its overall plan for the education sector, the immediate focus was safety of students and teachers in light of COVID-19. She added that if the Government was to open school as normal, there were several factors that ought to be considered and at this time, she was prepared to examine each of them.
On that note, she explained that there would be a meeting with all the stakeholders at the Ministry to craft a holistic plan on how they would move forward. The Minister is cognisant of the challenge, noting that it has not been easy for any country in the world.
However, she did recognise that there were best practices which Guyana could examine in determining the way forward. She noted that Denmark has introduced a “bubble method” where they successfully hosted no more than 12 students in a classroom with adequate space. That, she said, is one of the areas they are looking at exploring.
“Even as we look at best practices, we have to also take our realities into consideration. How many children in the classroom? If we were to put 10-12 in a classroom, how many sessions should we have? How could we push our teachers to that limit? Should we push our teachers to that limit? Those are the things we have to examine,” she said.
Manickchand also noted that there were options of engaging students without them actually physically coming into school, but cautioned that it would have to be carefully examined.
Manickchand first became a Government Minister in 2006, serving as Human Services and Social Security Minister. She had been extremely critical of the lax approach by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Education Minister, Nicolette Henry. (G2)