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—GTU blames situation on poor planning
Over 20 nursery and primary schools in Guyana have been forced to temporarily close their doors after children, teachers and auxiliary staff have come down with cases of COVID-19 less than two weeks after reopening to face-to-face learning.
On September 15, it was Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand who made the announcement that: “… we reopened schools last week and unfortunately we’ve had to close 17 in one week.” Since then, more schools have been added to this list. They include St. Margaret’s Primary, Liana’s Nursery and Grove Primary.
On September 6, 41 of Guyana’s 348 nursery schools opened their doors to full face-to-face engagement for learners. The other 307 were to operate on a rotation system. Meanwhile, 44 primary schools reopened fully based on the availability of space and another 413 were expected to operate on a rotational basis. Grade Six pupils, however, were to attend school daily.
Soon, it is expected that Secondary schools will begin attending face-to-face classes based on whether they are fully COVID-19 vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.
Speaking at an event at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), she told the audience that every country in the world that has reopened schools has had to deal with similar issues.
However, Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) General Secretary, Coretta McDonald has questioned whether it is evident now to the Education Minister that proper planning and consideration has not been put into the reopening of schools.
“There might be many more across the country because we’ve not gotten the full report from the hinterland region as yet
She said that there was a previous agreement with the MOE for the use of a 30-point document which would be used as a checklist for MOE and Union representatives to ensure that each school was prepared for reopening.
There was a plan for the activity to be completed in two weeks and an agreement that if the necessary facilities were not in place, the reopening of schools would need to be done on a phased basis or continued virtually while systems are put in place.
McDonald said that the activity commenced on August 23 and later that afternoon the Union saw via the MOE’s Facebook page that schools were to be reopened on September 6.
“We questioned that because we said we’ve not been out there as yet, we don’t know what’s happening in schools and our concerns was always and will always contine to be the safety of our students, our pupils and our teachers and, by extension, the communities in which those schools are located,” McDonald said.
“GTU questioned this, we got no response from the Ministry of Education and we pulled our representatives off of that activity.”
In videos that have surfaced online, some teachers at schools in different parts of the country have complained about the absence of running water, dead rodents and more affecting the smooth recommencement of schools. Several of these issues are being or have been addressed.