-Ministry of Education – Sector Highlights 2021
Despite being in office for just over one year, the PPP/C government has made significant efforts in ensuring that opportunities for development are available to all Guyanese. The Ministry of Education in particular, has taken a number of steps to ensure that the population remains educated even amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), during its campaigning, prior to the 2020 Elections, promised to award 20,000 scholarships during its first-term in office. Now in government, and within the first nine months, that promise has been honoured, with the commencement of the first tranche of 4,500 scholarships, through the Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL).
Every year, thousands of persons will benefit until that promise of 20,000 scholarships is fully achieved. The year 2021 alone saw thousands of Guyanese pursuing studies at international universities.
In addition, thousands of university courses were also made available to Guyanese through the Coursera programme. Over 55,000 citizens, including more than 8,000 teachers, benefited from a myriad of certifiable courses, from internationally recognised institutions.
Despite assuming office during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education hit the ground running, ensuring that every child was meaningfully engaged, while being away from school.
Worksheets for each grade were developed and distributed across the 10 administrative regions. To date, 58,890 worksheets for the Nursery level, 239,004 at the Primary level and 235, 864 at the Secondary level, were distributed.
Teachers were also required to utilise online platforms to virtually engage students, while the government worked on making electronic devices accessible to those who needed it the most.
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, M.P., in a press conference just months after taking office in 2020 highlighted some of the efforts made to keep the students actively engaged.
“We have done several things, engagements online, dedicated the learning channel to timetabled learning instructions, we have been using the radio, we have done worksheets. All of those have been effective to some extent, none will be able to trump the value of a trained teacher in front of the classroom. We could not send our children and teachers back without hearing from them and making sure what they told us is what we did,” she said.
The Ministry of Education implemented all steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Care packages, which includes masks, hand sanitisers, vitamins and face shields were distributed to students, teachers and support staff.
With government’s aim to modernise and create a digital-friendly learning environment, a number of smart-classrooms were commissioned in various secondary schools. The ministry was also able to provide 1,053 technological inputs to students and teachers, first starting with the underprivileged.
As a complement to the smart classrooms, the Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali-led government, allocated $200M for the expansion of the Guyana Learning Channel. This allocation benefitted students from Year One Kindergarten to Grade Eleven, in keeping with the government’s vision to utilise technology to boost education delivery.
The Guyana Learning Channel also launched a Whiz Kid platform, a game show, which is geared at preparing students for the National Grade Six Assessment. This programme was expanded to reach over 100 Amerindian communities last year.
Over $65M in ICT equipment was also given to TVET institutions for online learning.
A key promise of the government was the restoration of the “Because We Care” cash grant to students. This initiative was reintroduced and improved. While the previous grant in 2014 was $10,000, the government increased it to $15,000 per child. The uniform allowance was also increased from $2,000 to $4,000 per child. This means that every child registered in the public school system received $19,000 last year.
The $3.2B invested by government, benefitted a whopping 175,000 students, nationwide. Not to be left out the government expended $320M more to provide at least 17,000 children attending private schools with the $19,000 cash grant.
The government also invested huge sums to rehabilitate and construct new schools across the country, with the view of ensuring that students were comfortably accommodated when schools reopened.
The completion of the Westminster Secondary School is just one of several schools constructed last year to house over 1000 students. This school, which has already opened its doors, will also eliminate all primary tops existing in Region Three.
Minister Manickchand at the opening of the school said, “A primary top is where the student goes to a primary school and there’s no space in any secondary school in the region for them, so they continue on in primary and call themselves secondary students. That is not, as I’m sure you would agree, the proper or optimum way to be educating children…There are three primary tops closed here…that have been closed completely and those children are now coming to this school. A proper, discrete Secondary school with all the facilities and I guarantee you, you’re going to see them doing better,” she said.
As government continues to make access to education easier for Guyanese, the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) programme will now be done at Anna Regina Secondary School in Region Two and the West Demerara Secondary School, Region Three.
The ministry made great efforts to have pre-service education provided online and mandated that all uncertified or underqualified teachers be upskilled, to the point of eligibility for certification.
Adapting to the changes brought on by the pandemic, the Cyril Potter College of Education has gone fully online. This year, over 2500 students were accepted – a tremendous increase from the over 500 seen normally.
The Ministry of Education and by extension, the Government of Guyana has accomplished much over the last year as they demonstrated their commitment, to ensuring Guyanese have access to educational opportunities at all levels.