Schools to reopen on Nov 9 for CSEC, CAPE students
Education Minister Priya Manickchand on Saturday announced that schools will be reopened on November 9 for face-to-face engagements with teachers and students.
This, however, is only for students of Grades 10, 11 and 12 as preparations begin for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) in 2021. Technical Vocational and Education Training (TVET) institutions will also be reopened for physical classes.
Manickchand made the announcement at a press conference as she alluded to consultations with the Health Ministry, the Caribbean Examination Council, medical professionals, educators and parents over the past weeks to arrive at this decision. The discussions, she said, pointed towards concerns about learning loss, school dropouts among other issues.
“From parents, students and teachers, we learnt of their deep worry that exams students were not being engaged adequately in a way that would allow them to be prepared for examinations they’re most likely to sit in 2021. So worried are students that we have received alarming number of requests from students to repeat the year. They feel they will lose if we continue to stay away from school,” the Minister asserted.
Concerned teachers had already taken the onus of enabling face-to-face teaching at all levels. She shared that no degree of online classes can match the effectiveness of classroom presence from teachers, which also prompted the reopening.
“We remain sure that nothing we do will match the effectiveness nor replace the value of a trained teacher in front of a classroom in face-to-face engagements…We learnt from studies internationally which have indicated a strong likelihood of learning loss and a high possibility of school leaving. The longer students stay out of school, the more or likely these will be the consequences,” Manickchand shared.
20,000 examination students
Over 20,000 examination students will be returning to school. Protocols are in place to ensure that schools are safe. This includes regular sanitisation, temperature checks, vitamin support and other measures. Masks, face shields and care packages have been procured for both teachers and students. Appropriate distancing will also follow in the classroom setting and at schools, the environment has been cleaned with the installation of sinks.
When students return, respective schools will have the freedom to set their own timetables to ensure effective teaching, as long as there is compliance with the National COVID-19 Order.
“The central Ministry will provide guidance on the completion of SBAs and syllabi once requested or if its supervisory arms observe the need. Textbooks, past papers, digital support and other materials will be provided so that each student has access to the necessary resources,” the Minister also indicated.
Content will continue where it was halted for each student, which may necessitate reteaching what was taught during the months of closure. A wellness diagnostic will be administered along with any other necessary support.
“We intend to ensure that we lose not one single child to this school closure…We shall continuously assess the situation. We shall work closely with the Ministry of Health and if we need to make changes, we will not hesitate to do so. These are difficult times and no measure will be perfect but we must work to ensure that we do not lose educationally,” Manickchand reiterated.
As it stands, stakeholders will not be required to undertake a COVID-19 test to return to school, given the large student population.
Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer, Dr Marcel Hutson said they also engaged the Guyana Police Force and United Minibus Union, to ensure that buses are properly equipped to transport children safely.
“We had the commitment by all of the bodies as to what will be their specific roles going forward. The police talked about how they will monitor the bus parks to ensure that students are not left there liming, that the busmen will be orderly, that the touts will not be tugging children to determine which bus to go in. The police said they will have a heavy presence going forward,” Hutson stated.
Stakeholders were reminded that the entire school population will not be returning, amid concerns. Special arrangements are being made for students who will be residing at dorms.
The new COVID-19 Gazetted Order on Friday gave provision for the Education Ministry to reopen schools, subject to compliance with the measures.
The document, effective until November 30, indicates that “The Ministry of Education may issue guidelines or give any instruction to minimise the risks of Coronavirus transmission in schools.”
Classroom activity has been restricted since mid-March, when Guyana started witnessing an increase in positive cases. In September, schools remained closed and an online approach was adopted for learning. It was decided that a variety of methods was needed to address challenges of epidemiological patterns, internet access, and availability of resources through the usage of radio, the internet, the learning channel, and physical work papers.
However, the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has published dates for the writing of the 2021 examinations. This development necessitated the Ministry to foster consultations virtually.
For this, School-Based Assessments (SBAs) and Internal Assessments (IAs) which require practical activities can only be done in the school setting. Therefore, to complete the syllabi and these assessments, the Ministry mulled the best option for children as returning to school. (G12)