92 public schools for full reopening in September; 846 others on rotation 

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Education Minister Priya Manickchand

The Education Ministry has made a move to completely reopen 92 schools across the three levels, with the remainder – 846 –operating on a rotation basis until the vaccination rollout and other mechanisms are completed.

Schools will reopen in Guyana on September 6. On Friday, education officials highlighted a slew of plans that will be activated to ensure that the classroom environment is safe.

This is the first reopening across all three levels, since the COVID-19 pandemic struck back in March 2020 and caused widespread disruption in the education sector. Now, at the nursery level, 41 of the 348 schools will open for complete face-to-face learning, while the others will operate on a rotation schedule.

With a minimum contact time of four hours established, authorities have also mandated a teacher-student ratio of one to five. Nursery students will receive a home-based learning package and other materials as the sector adjusts to this new norm.

For primary schools, 44 of the 413 were given the greenlight for full opening at all grade levels; while Grade Six classes would be facilitated every day of the week, in keeping with preparations for the National Grade Six Assessment.

Meanwhile at the secondary level, only seven of the 126 institutions across the country will reopen. Education Minister, Priya Manickchand has informed that the remaining schools will utilise the rotation technique until students are vaccinated.

“The secondary schools will reopen to face-to-face learning as the vaccination is rolled out. All schools will reopen on the 6th September. The school term begins on 6th September but secondary schools will reopen as the vaccine rolls out,” she indicated.

Versatile situation

The Minister reminded that the pandemic is still a pressing issue, and it is mandated that stakeholders adhere to the various measures as outlined by the Health Ministry to ensure a safe reopening.

“We still have COVID in our midst. It can’t be a throwing open of the school doors and saying all will return to normal as we were in January 2020 or February 2020. We are still mandated by the Ministry of Health to observe all the COVID protocols: mask wearing, distancing, sanitising frequently. We will be doing that.”

The Education Ministry will release the schedules undertaken by each school on their social media and other platforms. A blended learning approach will continue, and those students who choose to remain at home will also be engaged.

When asked about the timeline in which the Ministry plans on continuing these arrangements, Manickchand stressed, “This is a very fluid, versatile situation we’re in. We’re not in a place where we could say for certain that next week, we will all be in school or even next week, we could be in the same place we’re at right now. If people don’t get vaccinated, we can predict what will happen. We are very certain at this point that we missed a year and a term academically and that’s not easy catch up in one year.”

Private schools

It was pointed out that a number of private schools have also submitted their plans to the Ministry, ahead of the reopening. However, the Minister was keen to note that private institutions cannot just open haphazardly without adequate systems in place.

“If a private school has 700 children and they have no space, the Ministry of Health wants to see the same plans for those children even if their parents consent…The private schools have to follow the plan to social distance, mask up, sanitise. When they submit that plan – many of them have already – we’ll then have a look at it to see if that complies with what the Ministry of Health demands,” she said.

Director of National Centre for Education Resource Development, Quenita Walrond-Lewis has indicated that the Ministry will be utilising the Guyana Diagnostics Assessment and consolidated curriculum to ensure that students are abreast in the given modalities and subject areas, given the impact brought on by the coronavirus disruptions. It will include content, teaching strategies and assessments for students.

“We’re looking at where our students left off and trying to work our way back up to standard. So, we’re trying to in a very cohesive way, reach back and think about where students ended their academic journey and then try to work our way forward towards where they need to be by grade level. This is a response to support continued learning by providing clear guidance to teachers,” she detailed.

Walrond-Lewis clarified that the consolidated curriculum is not a new tool, but the same in which teachers are exposed to. However, it is “tightening” the existing curriculum, bearing no compromises but simply seeks to effectively utilise time to meet grade level objectives.

“The consolidated curriculum was done across the four core content areas and it was done for Grades One through Nine. For Grades 10 and 11, this is where we pick up on the CSEC curriculum in preparation for those exams. The subject’s specific topics and objectives were reviewed and opportunities for logical connections were assessed and if appropriate, integration occurred,” the Director outlined.