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…opposition earns; accuses Education Ministry of failing to put the safety systems in place
Former Minister of Education, Dr. Nicolette Henry said the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) is deeply concerned that the Government is moving ahead with the reopening of schools although there aren’t sufficient measures in place to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus during face-to-face interaction.
“Every right thinking person ought to be concern that school is about to be opened in Guyana when there is an increase in the number of cases in the country. That should concern you because of how the infection is spread, and you know that the Delta variant is very contagious and there are high numbers among people,” Dr. Henry said during a press conference on Thursday.
A reduced number of nursery, primary and secondary schools are expected to open on Monday, September 6, 2021 for face-to-face learning. While classes would be rotated, and students are scheduled to attend school on specified days, Dr. Henry said that schools are being opened at a time when the Government is “struggling” to bring the number of COVID-19 cases down. On Wednesday alone, Guyana recorded 222 new COVID-19 cases while 34 persons were fighting for their lives in the COVID-19 ICU.
“They are operating from two extreme ends, none of which would be in the best interest of the people of this country, and none of which can result in anything positive,” Dr. Henry said while speaking in the presence of APNU+AFC Members of Parliament, Dr. Karen Cummings and Annette Ferguson during a virtual press conference.
Dr. Henry submitted that at least one week ahead of the reopening of schools, the Education Ministry and by extension the Government should have consulted with stakeholders within the Education Sector on the health and safety measures that should be in place before September 6.
“Given the social-distancing protocols we would expect that students would not be overcrowded in the classrooms, and so, these seating arrangements need to be put out there in advance. We cannot wait until we get on the ground…to figure that out on the first day of school,” she posited, while noting that such would have serious consequences.
The former Education Minister said that “Timetables” should be issued to both students and parents ahead of the opening of school. Further, she underscored the need for all schools to be equipped with temperature scanners and sanitation stations, as well as the need for schools to be sanitised on a regular basis to guard against the spread of the virus.
Dr. Henry said too that a monitoring mechanism should be developed to ensure that the precautionary measures to be instituted are never compromised. Further, she submitted that transportation system should be put in place for the safe movement of students to and from schools as well as modified arrangements for the provision of meals. “Whatever plan is being determined for schools in this country, every child must have access to and be a beneficiary if they are in school to the precautionary measures that have been outlined by WHO. It can’t be up to anybody to implement their own standards or precautionary measures,” she posited.
The APNU+AFC MP also made a case for spaces to be designated within schools to treat students and teachers who may become ill or display signs or symptoms of the virus while in school.
Dr. Henry said the coalition has made attempts to discuss the proposed measures and areas of concern with the Education Ministry but to no avail. Dr. Henry said based on her assessment, the precautionary measures, to which she alluded to, are not in place. She warned that the country would be “colliding with unfavorable outcomes” if the requisite precautionary measures are not instituted before the reopening of schools for face-to-face learning.