Home Features The gtu ignores science and the children, plays politics instead
The Guyana Teachers Union called for a “day of isolation”, essentially an illegal wildcat strike, on Monday January 10. The demand of the union for the teachers to ignore science, to ignore the children, was totally a politically-motivated action. The vast majority of teachers ignored the GTU’s reckless demand. For the 75% of Guyanese teachers who showed up at schools, they demonstrated loyalty to the education and welfare of the children. For the 25% of teachers who decided not to show up to school, how many of them actually “isolated” on Monday, January 10?
The GTU ignored that children have lost almost two years of learning. Many children will never regain what they have lost. According to a December 2021 Report from the World Bank, UNICEF and UNESCO, children from this generation are likely to lose US$17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value, or about 14 percent of today’s global GDP, as a result of COVID-19 pandemic-related school closures. In December 2020, these same institutions previously estimated the loss at about US$10 trillion. After two years of learning losses, studies now show that the losses are far more severe than were thought just one year ago. This means that almost a while, this generation now risks living in poverty for the rest of its life.
The Report is called “The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery”. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 53% of children in developing countries lived in “learning poverty”. After two years of school lockdowns because of COVID-19, the percentage of children in the developing countries living in learning poverty has grown to more than 73%. Evidence is mounting from across both the developing and developed countries that COVID-19 school lockdowns have led to severe learning losses. There is no ambiguity in the findings that learning losses among school children in the last two years have no equivalence to any other period of learning losses in the last two centuries.
Regional evidence from developing countries such as Brazil, Pakistan, India, South Africa, and Mexico, among others; and from developed countries such as America, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK, among others, shows substantial losses in math and reading. On average, learning losses are roughly proportional to the length of school closures. However, there is great heterogeneity across students’ socioeconomic status, gender, and grade level, with learning losses being greatest in younger learners, students from low-income backgrounds, as well as girls disproportionately.
The Report strongly recommends that school lockdowns come to an end, and is unconditionally explicit in its plea that schools must reopen as a priority to end the learning loss crisis. The Report urges that countries must immediately open schools for face-to-face schooling, putting in place comprehensive Learning Recovery Programmes focusing on three key lines of action to recover learning: 1) consolidating the curriculum; 2) extending instructional time; and 3) improving the efficiency of learning.
With increasing evidence that COVID-19 lockdowns have led to devastating learning losses, schools’ reopening for face-to-face learning has accelerated, and as 2022 begins in earnest, every single country in the world has ended COVID-19 lockdowns. Studies after studies are now drawing a clear line: COVID-19 lockdowns have not been superior to other public health measures. In a study involving 92 countries, it was found that the COVID-19 positivity rates and the mortality rates were not significantly different in countries that had extended lockdowns versus countries that did not have extended lockdowns. In Caricom itself, the country with the worst COVID-19 pandemic is the country that had the most rigid lockdowns. With such startling findings confronting policy makers, why would they want to continue school lockdowns?
The Guyana Government had begun since last year a phased reopening. Schools across the country has reopened. There is no evidence at this time to show that schools’ reopening has led to an increase in COVID-19 among school children. A week after school has reopened, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spreading among children in any way different from what obtained before last week. That these facts have been ignored by the GTU demonstrate clearly that science and truth have no place in the thinking of the GTU. Clearly, politics is their motivation. No wonder the teachers rejected them.
President Ali and his Government, since August 2020, made a decision that lockdowns do not work any better than other public health measures. Now countries around the world have discovered that public health measures together with vaccines represent a more effective response to COVID-19.
Last Sunday, the Prime Minister of Jamaica emphatically stated that Jamaica would not go into any new lockdowns. Essentially, he was endorsing what President Ali did more than one year ago. For almost two years, teachers were at home, and the Government ensured they were paid their full salaries. The Government has decided now that our children must not endure further learning losses. The GTU decided to go rogue. The teachers have left them to dangle on their own fragile ropes. The GTU has unequivocally chosen to abandon the education and welfare of teachers, children and parents. Instead, the GTU has wantonly chosen to be a “creature” of their political masters in the PNC.