Jun 04, 2020 News
The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) has expressed concern over the planned reopening of schools to facilitate the writing of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) examinations.
The Ministry of Education said that it plans to reopen schools between June 8th and August 15.
The APA said that it is very “concerned about Indigenous and hinterland students who have been heavily impacted by the repercussions of the COVID 19 pandemic.
“We have learnt of the intentions to move ahead in the next month with the National Grade 6 as well as the CSEC examinations but our anxiety lies in exactly how prepared are the children to write these exams.”
The APA, in a statement, pointed out that soon after Guyana’s first case of the novel Coronavirus was recorded in March, the Ministry of Education announced the closure of all schools to adhere to the guidelines for not congregating in large groups.
“This closure began on March 16 and remains in effect to date, and it means for almost three months, children nationally have not been in schools and have been negatively impacted. For hinterland students and the delivery of education, the impact has been even more severe.”
According to the APA, sometime after the closure, the Ministry of Education announced that E-learning would be facilitated and that workbooks for Grades 2, 4 and 6 (children writing those exams) would be provided to schools, but children in grades 1, 3, and 5 were not provided for, as well as children in the secondary level.
“The Guyana Learning Channel, by means of regional radio stations, would supplement the hard copy workbooks. We have since learnt that some Regional Educational Officers took the very laudable initiative to provide some workbooks for Grades 1, 3, 5 but it is not clear if these were done for all of the regions.”
In fact, APA said, secondary students living in dormitories away from home had no choice but to return to their respective communities.
“The University of Guyana also presented their strategy which allows students to continue studies through online classes. However, where this is not possible, these students would be left to consider taking a leave of absence from pursuing their studies. But this has not worked out well for indigenous and hinterland communities. While the efforts to bridge the technological gap between the coast and the hinterland through the establishment of ICT hubs and e-government internet access is commendable, very few of those stations provide reliable internet to sustain e-learning.”
The APA noted that in instances where private internet service is available, it is often expensive to utilize for prolonged periods. Many communities do not have a reliable source of electricity, or none at all. In some cases, communities cannot access regional radio stations, let alone television stations.
“Where there may be radio stations, not every family has a radio or listening device to tune in. For all grades of students but especially secondary and university students or those in vocational institutions, whether they remain in the city or have returned to their respective communities, not having access to the technological resources such as computers, or even tablets to participate in virtual classes or complete necessary course work, have also been a challenge.”
APA stressed that this means that across the board, many students have had to stop whatever form of classes they have been accustomed to attending and therefore have been without teaching and learning sessions for more than two months.
“Even some of the very teachers have struggled to adapt to the sudden transition in teaching regime and they must not be forced to go on leave of absence. It is difficult to understand how the children, and even adult learners, who face all of these difficulties now have to hear that exams will soon be upon them.”
It questioned what representation, if any at all, that the Ministry of Education has made on behalf of students from indigenous and hinterland communities to the CXC Council.
“The Council has said that in territories where the online testing infrastructure challenges are insurmountable, candidates will be allowed to sit the examinations using the paper-based modality but this does not take care of the gaps in learning and the serious challenges the students would have faced in keeping up with studies for their exams. The CXC Board has also left it to the various countries to work out where children will sit their examinations.”
APA said it wants to know how the authorities intend to deal with students on the hinterland scholarship programme?
“Will they write the CSEC examinations in their current locations? Will the Ministry support them financially if there are many failures and children have to rewrite exams? Does the Ministry know how prepared the Grade 6 children are for the exams?”
In another situation, APA also disclosed, students on the hinterland scholarship programme and those with Public Service Ministry scholarships are yet to be paid stipends or are finding it difficult to access same due to them being at home in the hinterland.
“Are any measures being put in place to ease this much needed resource? These situations are very concerning for our hinterland students who are already challenged by the many disparities in accessing quality education that exist between hinterland students and those who reside on the coastland.”
The Amerindian body said that it is clear that COVID- 19 has exposed the educational inequalities and digital divide in the educational system, something that the authorities surely should have known before.
“We urge that students from indigenous and hinterland students be afforded constructive redress and not be made to face situations for which they are not prepared. We urge that the Ministry consider an extended timeframe that allows for students to get back into the school and other learning system to be able to cope with the various exams facing them.”
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