Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
…accuse govt of breaking WHO/PAHO guidelines
…say living-in at the institution a bad idea, prefer online classes
By Lisa Hamilton
Parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children are safe. However, the only way that some parents of students at President’s College (PC) believe that they can do this is by taking their children out of school following the announcement of several positive COVID-19 cases at the dorms there.
On Thursday, a group of these parents met with representatives of the APNU+AFC Opposition and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) and called for the school to be closed temporarily until the Ministry of Education comes up with a safer, more reliable plan.
About two days ago, Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand announced that 8 students there had tested positive for the virus but, on Thursday, GTU General Secretary, Coretta McDonald said that this number has now doubled to 16, and one teacher. The Village Voice is yet to confirm this report.
On Tuesday, the Education Minister proposed to the College that all students take up residence at the dorms as a means of limiting outside contact to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
However, one parent, Mr. Abdul could not disagree more. He accused the Ministry of Education of putting the lives of children and their families in danger by transporting children from the hinterland without first ensuring that they were negative for the deadly virus. He said that the children arrived on Friday but were only tested days later when five began showing COVID-19 symptoms.
“While I was trying to keep quiet in the past I can keep quiet no more when I see the level of ignorance that is taking place in this country. Thirty-eight hinterland students were brought to President’s College and from the sidelines I’ve been getting accurate information that the Ministry of Education has violated WHO principles by bringing those children from Region Eight to Georgetown, subsequently to President’s College, without having certification that they’re COVID free,” he said.
“Those children were only tested Sunday when five of them came down with COVID symptoms and so when the Ministry is telling people that they came and were tested at President’s College, that is a lie…there are many other results to come.”
He demanded that President’s College be closed immediately, sanitized and that those infected be taken to a medical facility. Mr. Abdul said that parents are not prepared to settle for anything less.
Speaking on behalf of Fifth Form students, was one female parent who recounted her recent experience.
“I made a call to the Head Teacher at President’s College yesterday and one of their words to me was that ‘if you are afraid or you don’t have confidence in your child coming to PC, you will have to do a transfer for your child to go to a closer secondary school to your home’,” she said.
The parent said that she asked — in that case — what would become of the School-Based Assessments (SBAs) for children who had commenced these at the school but she received no answer.
“These children are sitting CXC just a few months from now, there is no proper systems in place to protect them. Remember, the Minister said that they are going to live-in but when these children contract the disease to come home to us as parents that is in extended family home, what is going to happen?” she questioned.
Another female parent of a Fifth Form student said that she is concerned about why students aren’t being allowed to complete their SBAs through online teaching. She said that the Ministry of Education has the ability to cater to students who wish to learn online as opposed to the classroom setting.
“My daughter spoke with some of the teachers, some of them were prepared to do online teaching but they were concerned that their schedule would be a little tight…if changes are put in place for this to happen I’ll be very grateful because it’s a risk even to send your child to another secondary school because we heard of cases and they are not going down they are just going up,” she said.
Other parents agreed with the proposal for online teaching noting that they do not believe that it is safe for their children to be living-in at the school. “I don’t think that the live-in is really good right now. My child is at home and I would like to know if they could do the online classes,” a parent said.
One other chimed in: “I prefer the online teaching and I think it [online teaching] was going good for a couple of months and I think it will continue going good for the rest of the year until CXC comes.”
A resident of the community, Mr. Elliott said that he is very disappointed because he is a former member of the school’s Board which worked hard to put systems in place to protect the children but the decisions of the Ministry of Education had set the school back.
“This is not time for too much of talking, this is time for action and we’re going to call out the communities of Golden Grove, Nabacalis and Haslington. By Saturday afternoon that college must be closed!” he demanded. “We’re calling upon the Minister to treat the parents and students as human beings.”
Minister Manickchand has stressed that the country must be able to find a balance in the delivery of quality education amidst the pandemic. Schools have been reopened for students in grades 10, 11, Sixth form and those attending Practical Instruction Centres (PIC) and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Institutions.