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COVID Surge: Teachers’ Union asks Ministry of Education to close schools for 14 days

Last Updated on Saturday, 8 January 2022, 22:13 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana Teachers’ Union on Saturday officially asked the Ministry of Education to close schools for 14 days from next week Monday because of the surge in COVID cases to allow for a careful assessment of the situation.

In a separate letter to teachers, GTU President Mark Lyte told them that Monday has been designated “Isolation Day” on which no face-to-face or virtual teaching would be held.

“Teachers will engage learners virtually during these fourteen days while the MoE (Ministry of Education) reassesses its face-to-face plan for learners during this pandemic,” the union told the Chief Education Officer, Dr. Marcel Hutson in a letter.  The union said the closure period should be used to fix ventilation, water, and washroom issues.

A senior official of the Ministry of Education told Demerara Waves Online News that an independent check of complaints and concerns would be conducted.

According to the union, teachers and students should not be in crowded schools in order to reduce the present spike in COVID positive cases in Guyana. If face-to-face classes are suspended, the GTU said teachers would teach virtually.

The GTU President told the Chief Education Officer that so far more than 108 teachers and 51 students have tested positive with the virus , widely believed to the the highly contagious Omicron variant. The union added that a total of 82 schools have reported positive instances of either a teacher, learner or support staff.

Meanwhile, United States-based Guyanese doctor, Rohan Somar advised that safe school environments are those where everyone must wear a mask, proper ventilation, adequate distance and good testing capacity.  He forecast that, based on the current situation, Guyana would soon be a “super hot state of infection spreading rapidly in the population.” “You physically may not be able to have school in person so what could be done if possible- remote learning,” he said on an Alliance For Change (AFC) social media programme. Dr Somar said schools might be disrupted for four to six weeks because teachers and students would be infected.

Dr Somar praised the Guyana government’s vaccination programme and overall response to the virus. “They are doing the best as they possibly can to provide the vaccination to the population and encouraging good stewardship and behaviour  with the population,” he said.

Chairman of the Parent Teachers Association of St Stanislaus College, Vanessa Persaud said that institution has been closed for 14 days and the entire school would be sanitised. “The cases are rising in the school and parents are becoming alarmed, the students are becoming alarmed and it’s really of no fault to no one,” she  told a GTU meeting. She said after the 14-day closure, the school would be opened for face-to-face classes for only Grades 10 to 13 students, while Online learning would be provided for Grades 7 to 9 until the number of cases have reduced.