By Naomi Parris
A NUMBER of schools in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) have begun preparatory works to welcome students back to their usual classroom setting.
This was announced on Thursday by the Ministry of Education via a Facebook post. In the post were several photographs of works being carried out at the Bush Lot and Novar Secondary Schools where contractors have begun building water troughs and sinks for sanitisation purposes.
Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson, in an invited comment, told the Guyana Chronicle that the preparatory exercise is in line with the Education Ministry’s usual plans for the reopening of schools.
“Preparation is key and critical in going forward. To tell you the truth, COVID or no COVID, this is something that we always do when we prepare for the reopening of schools, where we look to see where the gaps are; what are the needs, and we start to fix them before we go back to schools,” he said.
However, he stated that the ministry is proceeding with caution, since educators and students are not returning to schools under normal circumstances, given the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “This is a special time, where we have to be more than extra careful going forward,” he said, adding: “We have had several meetings, looking to see when that time has come, how we could open schools, taking into consideration the safety of our children; the safety of our teachers, and the safety of all stakeholders.”
He noted that there is no fixed date as to when schools will be reopened; however, the ministry has proposed that each school should submit a schedule that will be suitable to each educator and their students or pupils.
“We have to demonstrate some type of flexibility, because these are not normal times; because we are working amidst COVID-19. Therefore, every school has a strategy that will work for them; it cannot be one-size-fits-all.”
However, he said: “Whatever they are going to be doing will not be without the supervision and monitoring of the Ministry of Education.”
Hutson further stated that while the ministry is cognisant of the effects of the pandemic, schools cannot remain closed indefinitely, as the nation’s children have already lost much valuable time. He added that while students and pupils have been engaging with their respective teachers via Online classrooms and other platforms, there is still the need for face-to-face interaction and explanations.
“We can’t remain closed forever; lots of other countries and institutions are moving ahead, and we just want to make sure that our children do not continue to suffer learning loss, and losing instructional learning time.”
Hutson further disclosed to this publication that before a decision is made as to when schools will officially be reopened, the minister will be working along with parents, teachers and other stakeholders to ensure that all the necessary precautionary measures are in place before schools are open to students and teacher.
“[The minister] has a team of senior education officers, parents and all stakeholders working to see how we can look at the reopening of schools, so we can recover some of the time that has already been lost,” the Chief Education Officer said.