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…GTU General Secretary says lives of students, teachers in jeopardy
General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) Coretta McDonald on Tuesday said the Ministry of Education’s decision to reopen schools for students preparing for the CSEC and CAPE examinations in 2021 was rushed and ill-thought out.
“As far as we know, the reopening of schools and the timing for the reopening of schools, it’s not right,” McDonald who has been part of several closed-door meetings between the Ministry of Education and the GTU to discuss the reopening of schools, told reporters.
She said that the GTU lobbied for a solid plan to be put in place to guarantee the safety of teachers and students noting that from the Union’s eyes, it seems the Ministry opted for haste over safety.
“I’m not sure what point the Ministry of Education or Government wants to prove but this whole aspect of rushing to reopen schools is reckless and ill-thought-out,” she said adding “GTU is not opposing the reopening of schools. GTU is saying we want to ensure that our children are safe, our teachers are safe and, by extension, the communities in which the schools are located and this nation, that they are all safe.”
McDonald said that when the GTU met with Education Minister, Priya Manickchand and the proposal to reopen schools was put on the table, it was decided that whenever the necessary systems are in place and schools are reopened, priority should be given to those preparing to write exams and COVID-19 prevention measures must be strict.
In McDonald’s opinion, the latter has not been achieved. She said that simply providing care packages to students is not enough.
“GTU was not satisfied with the systems that were in place and so we inquired about transportation because…the children would have traversed in public transportation and that, in itself, is a risk. Children having to move from one point to another is even more risk. Children coming from different areas and having not been tested is a risk by itself. I’m not sure that the Ministry of Education understands exactly what is happening,” McDonald said.
Added to this, she said that the GTU questioned the Minister about what provisions would be in place for students and teachers with underlying conditions and the responses received were “willy-nilly”. McDonald also told the media of witnessing disparity in the assistance provided to some schools as opposed to others.
“We have gone out there to schools and we’re seeing schools in Region Three [where] yesterday Vreed-en-Hoop Secondary had to be housed at Vreed-en-Hoop Primary [because the] sanitization process was still ongoing yesterday and children were in school. On Sunday, we recognized that students coming from Region Eight, Kato to be specific, being housed at President’s College, [eight] of them were COVID positive. They came in on Saturday, they were tested on Saturday but on Saturday evening, Sunday morning, they were intermingling with their peers. Are we really serious about this business? I don’t think so!” McDonald said
The GTU General Secretary urged the Education Ministry to ensure that the lives of students and teachers are not placed in jeopardy due to the failure of the Government to listen and implement alternative systems.