The Ministry of Education will be providing all teachers, students and cleaners returning to school with care packages containing masks, hand sanitizers, face shields and other items to ensure they remain safe before, during and after sessions.

This was told to parents and teachers during virtual meetings held from October 26 – 30 by Minister of Education Priya Manickchand. According to a statement from the Ministry on Friday, over 5,000 parents and teachers were engaged on the examinations and the reopening of schools.

Students who will be writing the 2021 Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations will be the first to return to the classrooms.

A date has not yet been named but the Ministry said “this will be done soon so that students can return to the classroom and begin working to be prepared to write their examinations next year.”

The Government of Guyana has given the greenlight for the Ministry to reopen schools under strict COVID-19 guidelines from November.

The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has already published dates for the writing of the exams.

The Ministry said many of the School Based Assessments (SBA) and Internal Assessments (IA) require practical activities that can only be done in the school setting.

“Therefore, to complete the syllabi and these assessments, the best option for children to prepare for the examinations is to return to school,” the statement noted.

The Minister, during the week engagements, urged parents to stress the importance of wearing masks to their children as well as observing other measures such as hand washing, sanitizing and social distancing.

According to the Ministry’s statement, she has also informed teachers that there will be no “one size fits all” approach to how a school functions in preparing students. She said that schools will be given the liberty to create an efficient timetable to prepare its students. Schools that have difficulty doing this will be supported by the Ministry to get it done.

Meanwhile, the Chief Education Officer, Dr. Marcel Hutson defended the Ministry’s move to reopen schools in a phased manner.

He noted that many students have not had any engagement since March 2020 when schools closed and the Ministry is concerned about the future of its students.

The CEO was quoted saying that many students wish to apply to Universities locally and abroad, and with these tertiary institutions remaining open across the globe, Guyana’s schools cannot remain closed as it will be a disservice to students.

He said that the plan to reopen schools for the examination level students was not hatched out of the air but is based on research done by UNICEF, UNESCO and from experiences by other countries.

Further, the CEO said internationally, several countries have reopened schools including Jamaica which has begun a phased reopening.

“All of these institutions are functioning under the same guidelines that our students here will have to follow. These include the wearing of masks, social distancing, the frequent washing of hands, daily temperature checks and ensuring learning is done in properly ventilated classrooms,” the Ministry said.

According to the Ministry, many schools in Guyana have already begun face-to-face teaching in an effort to engage their children effectively.

Already, work is being done and in most cases completed, at schools across Guyana to ensure they are ready to welcome the examination students back into the classroom under the safest conditions.