The Education Ministry, and by extension, the Government had done a remarkable job in terms of preparations for the partial reopening of schools and for learning to continue for students across the country and now for the full reopening of schools come September.
President Dr Irfaan Ali currently said on Thursday 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…ee 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 has managed to open schools for Grades of 10, 11 and 12 (fourth fifth and sixth forms) to allow those students who are older, back into school so that they can prepare for their exams. This was after these students missed out on months of academic work and this will certainly prove to be a challenge in terms of completing the syllabus.
There are a few who have hastily criticised the ministry for moving ahead with the partial reopening of schools without offering any proper alternative. However, we believe that Education Minister Priya Manickchand was correct in pointing out that school doors cannot remain closed forever. Learning needs to continue, but certainly with taking all the necessary health precautions very seriously.
We have noted that the Ministry has been very thorough in terms of putting systems in place to prevent persons from contracting the virus. However, like many other countries, no one can guarantee that persons would be free from getting infected.
It could be recalled that prior to the reopening of schools, the ministry held a number of consultations with the Health Ministry, medical professionals, CXC, head teachers, teachers, the Guyana Teachers’ Union, parents, students and other stakeholders to discuss and consider the relevant issues relating to the pandemic.
It should mandatory for every student, teacher and member of the auxiliary staff to wear face masks in Guyana. Everyone should also have their temperature tested before they are allowed entry into the school compound. Students must continue to be supplied with safety kits.
The Ministry of Education must be commended for the work it has done to ensure learning continues. It should be noted that Guyana is one of the few developing countries in the world that have given this kind of support to students and teachers, inspite of the scarcity of resources.
That said, in light of the changes that are being made due to COVID-19, educators will have to adapt very quickly and ensure that students are not left behind. The failure of students must not be an option, hence the important role of the head teachers, regional education officials and even parents.
Through effective leadership, coupled with sound management head teachers and their senior staff must be able to cope with the changes that are being forced upon us in order to effectively transform the performance of students.
Good managers know that planning and organization are critical to success, and it is important that every school adopts this approach. The best performing schools often have better organized and prepared teachers.
Additionally, the Ministry of Education and Government as whole must constantly review its approaches to education delivery and management. Doing so would not only allow for improved results at the national and regional examinations, but it will contribute to churning out competent and capable individuals who can adapt easily to tertiary education or the working environment.
Parents must not leave their children’s education to teachers and the Ministry of Education alone.