Students have been deprived of learning in a classroom since March of 2020 because of the pandemic. The pandemic has eased from a year ago although it still claims many victims. But it appears the virus will be with us for years to come. There, the public must adjust their lives accordingly. Schools cannot be shuttered permanently. It is about time to re-open schools. Thus, the Guyana government is cheered for taking steps to reopen schools though it is limited to lower grade kids since a month ago.
As a result of closed schools, the Ministry of Education turned to remote (including internet) mode of instruction and learning. Learning loss occurred during remote instruction. Parents complained that their kids were not learning as much as they should. In fact, in several instances, no learning occurred. Thus, school closures and remote learning can’t continue infinity.
On line, remote learning is not a substitute for in person learning with regular connection to other students and teachers. Plus, many children have been excluded from online classes due to the digital divide – some can’t afford the devices or the cost of internet. Some can’t get connected to internet even when it is affordable. Children who can’t connect with internet are at a disadvantage. In fact, in a survey I recently conducted, parents complain that their kids are not learning much through internet. They need in person instruction. The survey shows that most parents want schools to reopen. Most students also want to return to school, recognizing the limitation of remote learning. Most teachers want to go back to their normal professional of imparting knowledge. Some teachers prefer to continue on line or remote teaching because it is like a continuous vacation at home where they can do their personal chores.
In addition, the sight of children going to school evokes normalcy in a society. Our children’s lives are centered around schools, and the learning, the routine, playfulness, being with peers, and fun that come with it. Eighteen months from regular schooling has taken its toll on kids as well as on the educational system. As an educator of 40 years, I can say that children miss critical developmental milestones not being in regular attendance in schools. Children, Staff, parents, and students suffer mental illness from closure of schools. It is time to get back to normalcy especially that Covid 19 will be around for a long time. We will have to adjust our lives to Covid 19. Government should move towards full re-opening for all students providing it is safe for all stakeholders.
The US has moved to in school learning as have other countries. A federal court ruled against New York City Teachers Union that appealed a ruling of a lower agreeing with government’s mandate on teachers’ vaccination. In NY, If you don’t vaccinate, except for religious or health reasons, you cannot teach. The ruling was put on hold till last Friday when the court threw out the case. The Teachers Union indicated it would appeal to the Supreme Court. I think the Supreme Court will side with the government – state has power to restrict rights during an emergency. The pandemic is an emergency. In fact, teachers would lose their jobs in NY if not vaccinated. In Guyana as in the US, increasing numbers of people are being vaccinated although the Covid infection rate and deaths have been rising in Guyana. The government prioritisation of vaccination for educators and students is praised.
Teachers and students should take the vaccine. Government should enforce its policy on mandatory vaccine for teachers with exceptions for religion and medical issues. This would make it possible to implement in person teaching for all students and staff. Off course, government or the Ministry must provide a safe environment for stakeholders. Stakeholders must be assured of a safe reopening. Kids should be given jabs if available and safe.