Nicolette Henry, Priya Manickchand clash over COVID-19 learning packages

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 16:57 by Denis Chabrol

Dr. Nicolette Henry

Former Minister of Education Nicolette Henry and current Education Minister Priya Manickchand on Wednesday took on each other over questions about  COVID-19 learning packages” for schools, with Henry charging that Manickchand was trivialising her explanations and Manickchand blaming her for holding on to power instead of getting work done.

During consideration of 2020 Budget estimates of expenditure  COVID-19 accelerated programme, Dr. Henry asked Ms. Manickchand how many learners are catered for, what are the categories of learners to receive the packages and what is a learning package for each category of learner.

The Education Minister said that is a foreign-funded project said the number of beneficiaries would eventually be provided to Dr. Henry , but she said “I am getting more and more concerned as we get into these estimates” because apart from the numbers, she wanted solid information about what constitutes a package. “When you answer that question, I would have subsequent questions but when you stand there and you gloss over and you make your speech and that kind of thing, you trivialise the education delivery to the people of this country and that concerns me,” said Dr. Henry who recently demitted office as Education Minister after Manickchand’s People’s Progressive Party was early last month declared winner of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections

In a swift retort, Ms. Manickchand laid out her concerns and pointed to the five-month long hiatus between polling day and the declaration of results. “What concerns me former Minister is that this money came and was given to the country under your watch and you have no clue what it’s being used for,” she said.

Priya Manickchand.

The Education Minister explained that the learning package addresses the needs of Guyana’s 27,000 nursery students and each package would contain worksheets, workbooks, and manipulative crayon colouring books. “I’m fully aware of what is in that learning package. What concerns me is that you are not aware of what’s in the learning package and that, Mr. Speaker, is reflected in the failure to serve the people of this country during the COVID period while the APNU+AFC occupied themselves with foisting themselves on this nation unlawfully,” she said.

In the end, Dr. Henry said  “I would have to move on” as she continued to seek clarifications about other allocations for the educations sector.

The Education Minister said all nursery students would get learning kits and teachers and parents would be provided with instructions. She said that would assist teachers would be expected to conduct diagnostic tests based on guidelines that would be provided to the Ministry of Education.