Nov 23, 2020 Letters
I refer to a letter captioned ‘Counting the cost of the hasty re-opening of schools’ in the Friday edition of this newspaper written by the AFC’s MP Sherod Avery Duncan. It is a letter of contradictions and puerility. Mr. Duncan identifies the issue of the reopening of schools and attempts to condemn the efforts of the Ministry of Education by stating his flawed observation that the Minister of Education and the President of Guyana flouted the COVID-19 regulations. What does that have to do with the reopening of schools? Are these two individuals teachers in schools? As such, Mr. Duncan has clumsily attempted to negate the hard work, efficiency, competence and capabilities of all public servants in the Ministry of Education. Further, Mr. Duncan seems to have some issues with the officers in the Ministry of Education. He ineptly says their comments, in relation to the reopening of schools are ‘smattering.’ It is unbelievable that a serving Member of Parliament, however junior, will utter such an indictment against the staff of the Ministry of Education who had served conscientiously under his government. Surely, Mr. Duncan knows that the Ministry of Education is more than the Minister of Education.
Mr. Duncan tells us that ‘credible reports’ have indicated that there are COVID-19 cases in a number of schools. Editor, this year has taught us that the word ‘credible’ has to be taken with ‘a pinch of salt’ especially when it comes from someone like Mr. Duncan. It must be recalled that it was Mr. Duncan and his party who told us that it was ‘credible’ that two Russians had come to tamper with our paper and pencil elections and as a result had to be deported. It was Mr. Duncan who told us that it was ‘credible’ that a person voted in Parika and then travelled to Black Bush and voted for his identical twin. As such, Mr. Duncan needs to tell this nation the schools where these cases are and the number of cases at each school.
Mr. Duncan says that ‘a coherent policy approach is wanting.’ Editor, this is not the first time that schools have been reopened this year. It should be recalled that schools were reopened in June of this year to facilitate Grade 6 and Grade 11 students who were writing exams. Could Mr. Duncan tell us what was his government’s ‘coherent policy approach’ then? There was none. Mr. Duncan and company were too busy frustrating the will of Guyanese in electing a government. So maladroit was the previous government that they sent the Chief Education Officer, who is the main policy writer of the Ministry of Education, on leave in a time when the Ministry of Education and the entire country was battling a pandemic. His government had no plan. They still don’t in opposition. Mr. Duncan should identify a list of things he would have done instead of what is being done currently by the Ministry. Mr. Duncan and many of his colleagues of the opposition have commented on what has been done. As citizens of this country, please tell us what you would have done. This Ministry, I am advised, has a National COVID-19 protocol which is the main policy document that guides the operations of teachers, principals, education officers, etc. It is a plan which was developed by this government.
Mr. Duncan tells us, through a quotation, that in order to ensure safety for all, the government should ‘plan for inclusive re-opening; listen to the voices of all concerned; and coordinate with key actors.’ This tells me that Mr. Duncan is not living on planet earth. All are aware that the Ministry of Education conducted consultations with students, parents and teachers of all regions through Zoom. Most of these sessions were attended by more than 1,000 participants. In fact, the Honourable Ronald Cox, an opposition MP, was a part of the session held with parents of Region One. I am aware that the President of GTU has said that the Ministry of Education has had discussions with the union on two occasions. Which other voices is Mr. Duncan talking about?
Finally, Honourable Member Duncan identifies the need for an adequate plan. I agree. Could the Honourable Member produce the plan that his government had in place when they opened school in June of this year? This will save this country some much needed time and resources. Editor, the most fundamental role of an opposition is to provide an alternative path to governance. Here is a chance for Mr. Duncan to show his worth as an opposition member of parliament. Somehow, I suspect nothing will be forthcoming.
Mohammed S. Hussain
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