–Education Minister says evidence points to contraction at the community level
EDUCATION Minister Priya Manickchand has said that the teachers and students who were tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week did not contract the virus at school.
According to the minister, the teachers and students contracted the virus from the community spread before school was re-opened. They were tested positive last Monday.
This, Minister Manickchand pointed out, means that the teachers and students had contracted the virus five to 14 days before, at which time they were not in school but at home on holiday.
She noted that though the effect of school re-opening in light of COVID-19 the world over remains unclear, the horrid effects of prolonged absence from school has been repeatedly studied and documented, including by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
All the reports in the world say that school needs to be the last place to close, and the first to re-open, the minister stressed while contending that from all accounts, COVID-19 will not go away soon.
She said, too, that some parents are angry that the Ministry of Education has their children on rotation, as they prefer full-time school.
“The ministry will continue to do what is asked of us by the majority, while allowing for space for parents who don’t agree with the majority to do what is best for their children,” Minister Manickchand said.
She was also quick to point out that engaging ‘Online’ in Guyana means that more than half the school population will go without an education because of no or poor Internet infrastructure.
“It is the duty of each of us to try to stay safe, and keep those around us and for who we have responsibility safe. Mask up, wash and sanitise hands, avoid large gatherings that are not necessary, stay in well ventilated places, eat well, use vitamin support (particularly Zinc, and Vitamins ‘C’ and ‘D’). And, most of all, get vaccinated and get your booster shot when it is the right time,” she reminded education stakeholders in a Facebook post on Thursday.
Schools were closed in March 2020, and even though teachers were away from school for the time, they were not necessarily away from their charges, as most lessons teachers continued their lessons.
When school reopened for face-to-face learning for Fifth and Sixth Formers in November 2020, the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and the APNU+AFC objected to the move by the Ministry of Education.
However, the students came out, and the country topped the Caribbean at both the CSEC and CAPE examinations.
When schools reopened for Grade Six in 2021, and the ministry announced examination dates, the GTU and the APNU+AFC raised their objection, again.
In fact, the GTU suggested that the examinations be not sat in 2021, but children turned up and wrote their examinations. Teachers were teaching their children face-to-face long before the ministry made it official, Minister Manickchand said.
When school reopened in September 2021 for Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Formers, and Grades Five and Six fully, with rotation for face-to-face learning for every other level, including nursery, the GTU again objected, Minister Manickchand pointed out.
“When schools were scheduled to be reopened in January 2022 for all levels, where the only addition to the September 2021 position was that Grades 8-12 would engage fully face-to-face. Again GTU objected to this opening before Omicron appeared on the scene and before number started rising
“All of the openings above were a response to what parents, students and teachers demanded of the government and the turnout at schools showed clearly that this was what parents believed was best for their students.
“In all of the openings above, parents were given a choice of either sending their children out or keeping them home and engaging them. In all of the openings the majority of kids came out giving the clearest indication of what people want,” the minister said.