‘All set for NGSA’
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A Stella Maris Primary School pupil utilising the newly-built handwashing area
A Stella Maris Primary School pupil utilising the newly-built handwashing area

– schools equipped with PPEs, sanitisation materials, adhering to COVID-19 prevention measures

By Lisa Hamilton

THE Ministry of Education (MoE) has reported that Primary Schools across Guyana are prepared and well-equipped to facilitate the sitting of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) Examination on July 1 and 2.

On Monday, the Guyana Chronicle visited several primary schools in the Georgetown area, and witnessed some of the final arrangements being put in place by teachers and ancillary staff. In an invited interview with the newspaper, Senior Public Relations Officer (PRO) within the Ministry, Brushell Blackman said that the Superintendent of Examination has confirmed that plans remain on track for the exams in the 11 educational districts.

Additional cleaning supplies on display at St. Sidwell’s Primary (Adrian Narine photos)

“Preparatory works, in terms of the sitting of the examinations, have been ongoing, and the Ministry of Education is well and surely on track in executing these examinations. Right across the regions, systems are being put in place to ensure the smooth running of the National Grade Six Assessment Examination and, subsequently, CSEC and CAPE,” Blackman said.

Following the MoE’s announcement of the exam dates for July, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) had called on teachers countrywide to boycott the June 8 to August 15 re-opening of schools to cater for the preparation and subsequently the holding of the exams.

However, the PRO said that these calls were not adhered to by the majority of teachers, as they understand the importance of the examinations, even during the global pandemic. He said: “This didn’t impact the process, because, as you know, teachers have been turning out to schools to work with the children, and, in addition to that, you have parents assisting with the process because they understand the importance of the children sitting this examination.”

The directive that they return to school for preparation had come through a gazetted Order signed by Minster of Education, Dr. Nicolette Henry. It included clear COVID-19 prevention guidelines to be followed by the MoE, Department of Education, Head Teachers, Mayor and City Councils/Town Councils, Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), parents/guardians and pupils.

MENU OF MEASURES

The measures outlined in the Order catered for appropriate sanitation stations, including

Social distancing at St. Sidwell’s Primary

adequate water and soap, and bins with covers; adequate sanitation supplies such as bleach, soap powder and alcohol-based sanitisers; floor signage, or markings indicating a physical distance of approximately six feet apart, and a designated sickbay or quarantine area that is well-ventilated and equipped with a bed; first aid kit and personal protective gear to accommodate any student that is suspected to be exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Over at the Stella Maris Primary School, there are freshly-built hand-washing areas catering to four children on each side. The new handwashing facility is in addition to another already present at the institution.

The sickbay area set up at St. Sidwell’s Primary

At certain locations in the compound, there are spray-painted floor signage indicating to children the distance they should keep between themselves and their peers. At the North Georgetown Primary School, Head Teacher, Donette Munroe-Liverpool put on display the care packages that have already been handed over to the majority of the children. Its contents include four masks, hand sanitisers, a packet of wipes, a roll of toilet tissue, and a bar of soap. Blackman explained: “Aside from the children coming to sit the exams with their own masks, they have four additional masks on top of what they have as part of package. I’m happy to report that the Ministry of Education has adequate supplies of the necessaries to ensure that our children are safe; to ensure the requisite cleaning at the requisite time, and to ensure that our children, teachers and those who are permitted to be in the environs are properly protected.”

Our next stop was St. Sidwell’s Primary, where cleaning staff and teachers pointed the newspaper to their sickbay area, which was neatly prepared in a child-friendly manner, along with the required equipment/materials. The Order states that anyone who exhibits a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or greater than 38 degrees Celsius shall be promptly isolated in the sickbay area of the school, and screened by emergency medical personnel.

Meanwhile, desks and chairs were seen to be separated as required by the Ministry of Public Health, with undistributed care packages placed on them catering for the July 1 arrival of the pupils.
Blackman told the newspaper that, as indicated in the Order, the Ministry of Education shall provide transportation to vulnerable children who reside outside of their catchment area. Added to this, the MoE will be implementing alternative methods to cater those affected directly by the COVID-19 pandemic, and are unable to sit the exams.

MECHANISMS IN PLACE
“In situations where a child or children cannot sit that particular examination for one reason or the other, there are mechanisms in place because, obviously, you’ll have supplementary examinations prepared and there are other mechanism that can be utilised based on the judgement and the determination of the technical officers at the Ministry of Education. The Ministry will make a call based on the situation in its entirety,” he explained.

North Georgetown Primary’s Head Teacher, Donette Munroe-Liverpool handing over one of the care packages to a pupil

While exams amidst a pandemic is certainly a first for this Administration of the Ministry of Education, the PRO was pleased to note that parents have allowed their children to participate in the exams, fully aware that the MoE is doing its best to ensure the safety of all involved. He said: “Parents have not indicated otherwise that they would not be sending their children to sit the examination, so, in my opinion, I would believe that parents are going to send out their children as usual to sit the examination because of the importance of it as it is a placement examination which would put their children on that forward trajectory into their academic life.”

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