Schools will be closed for both virtual and face-to-face learning from December 18, 2020, to January 4, 2021, for the Christmas holidays but when the new term begins, only the current Grades 10, 11 and 12 students, who are preparing to write the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), will return to the classrooms, Education Minister, Priya Manickchand has clarified.

“How ever you were engaged in this term, is how you start on the 4th of January, so if there was face-to-face engagement in this term, then that’s how you start in January and if it was on Zoom and Google and Whatsapp, that’s how it starts back too,” Manickchand told the News Room on Friday.

She said the ministry is still consulting with parents and teachers about the possibility of other students returning to the classrooms.

“We want to make sure we get all the information we need and we make the right decisions. In this period, something can be right one day and evolve into wrong the next day.

“…We have not made a decision about any other levels as yet. Right now we only know fourth, fifth and sixth formers are back and should be back in the classrooms,” Manickchand said.

Schools were closed since March 17 as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic and reopened for CAPE and CSEC students on September 14.

According to the Education Minister, in order to ensure a safe environment for children, a large percentage of the population must wear their masks, maintain social distancing and work towards flattening the curve.

Whenever the decision is taken for other students to return to the classrooms, the Minister affirmed that exams will be conducted to determine the learning gap and to ensure everyone is on the same level.

Additionally, Manickchand said religious leaders are being engaged to track down those children who have not been able to continue learning since the closure of schools. One such meeting was held on Friday afternoon.

“For the students who did not turn out and they have gone into the workforce, we have to find a way to ensure they finish some level of education or training in the secondary sector,” the Minister said.

She added: “The reason we chose the religious bodies is because they exist in all the communities so you’re likely to know this boy from up the road start working, we can go help him out [or] let’s see how the Ministry can support this.”

Manickchand said the ministry will look to help the students in achieving a higher education which will lead to a higher quality of life.

Guyana continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases with 73 new cases recorded on Friday taking the overall toll to 5,601 to date.