Kaieteur News – The Minister of Education is again in the news, this time distributing the uniform and school’s supplies vouchers. It is kind of bizarre that no date has yet been set for the reopening of schools, but parents are receiving the uniform allowance.
The voucher which is being distributed is a mere G$4,000. But from the fanfare with which this pittance is being handed out, you would have thought it was a G$25,000 pay-out for each school child.
But why are these vouchers being distributed now? Is it that the Minister knows something which has not been made public as yet? Is it that schools are going to be reopened soon?
From the way things are going, it is not likely that schools can be fully reopened this year. For the past seven days there have been 264 new cases. Of these new cases, at least 12 persons are going to die. Three persons succumbed yesterday and new hot spots, including Region Six, have now developed.
The airports were reopened for more than one month now, and during this time cases around the world have climbed. The situation in the United States is now worse than it was during the Spring and Summer months.
If anything, our airports should be closed rather than remain open. And there is reason also to keep our children out of school until this pandemic abates. The pandemic has not yet peaked in Guyana. The situation is getting worse.
It is therefore baffling why the government should be distributing school vouchers at this time when it would be disastrous for schools to be reopened within the next two weeks. The Christmas term will end within the next three weeks and so it makes no sense to be attempting to reopen schools.
The Ministry of Education would be inviting a more disastrous situation if it should now announce the reopening of schools. But do not count anything out. The Irfaan Ali administration is as wild as can be! This is wildness galore, as is evident by their continued refusal to tighten the social restrictions in place.
The Ministry of Education has reopened classes for Grades 10, 11 and 12. It made a mistake when it decided to allow the return of dormitory students of those grades. This should never have happened, given the spread of the virus in elderly and care homes in other countries.
All school dormitories should have been closed. It was a mistake to reopen them and the Ministry should learn from that mistake and shut these schools down. Students cannot sleep with masks on and sleeping in a dormitory is a high-risk activity.
The Christmas Season is upon us and this is the time that the Ministry chooses to distribute the uniform voucher. Unless it is announced that schools will fully reopen soon, a lot of that money is going to be spent between now and whenever the Ministry does decide to reopen schools.
Education is in a crisis in Guyana. It was in a deep crisis before the pandemic with more than half of the students who wrote primary-leaving examinations doing poorly and more than half of those who wrote the CSEC examinations doing poorly. This is the main reason for the problems with employment in the country. People are leaving school without the requisite qualifications and therefore do not have the basis to go and pursue training in institutions where they can acquire a skill in order to get a job.
There is no reason why the distribution of the uniform voucher should be a photo-opportunity for politicians. The schools are quite capable of distributing the vouchers, despite not having done so for five years. There is more important work for the Minister of Education than to be observing the uniform voucher distribution.
New York City was among the first to reopen public schools. Last week, amidst a surge in cases, New York City announced it is shutting down its public schools. Ontario is now on a 28 days lockdown which effectively kills Christmas for the millions which live in that province.
Parents in Guyana are not eager to send their children to school at this time. It is not only the children’s health that is of concern. It is also the fact that the fastest way for infections to spread in households is when children bring these infections into the homes from schools. Given that there are many elderly persons living in extended families, it is simply too risky to be reopening schools at this time or any time soon.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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