Though the Ministry of Education is strongly encouraging parents to give consent for their children to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, unvaccinated children will not be prevented from attending physical classes when schools are reopened.
This is according to Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, who was answering questions at a press conference held at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on Tuesday afternoon.
The minister emphasised that the education ministry is working towards the safe reopening of schools since online learning and the closure of schools have negatively impacted some groups of children, resulting in some learning loss.
And, if schools are kept closed, Manickchand said that the learning loss may be irreversible for some children. It is for this reason that the decision was made to reopen schools – not universally, but on an individualised basis. The Education Ministry said that based on the space and circumstances at each school individualised measures will be applied to ensure the safety of all.
Importantly, too, schools will be ready for reopening, and parents along with teachers will be informed of the individualised reopening measures for the respective schools in the coming days.
Vaccination is also a crucial aspect in the reopening of schools to ensure that the children and teachers are kept safe, and it is for this reason that teachers who do not wish to take any of the COVID-19 vaccines will be required to submit the results of a PCR COVID-19 test, showing that they have not been infected with the novel coronavirus.
But, even as the ministry now has enough vaccines to vaccinate thousands of children between the ages of 12 to 18, Manickchand said that the government is not making the vaccination of children a precondition for entering schools.
“We are not prepared to say that at this stage that unvaccinated children will be disallowed from entering schools,” she underscored.
Before the arrival of more than 146,000 Pfizer vaccines on Tuesday, which can be used to vaccinate more than 70,000 children, the ministry has already started to issue parental consent forms so that parents can grant their approval for their children to get vaccinated.
On Tuesday, the minister said that just over 4,000 children had been given permission by their parents to get vaccinated and she said that she expected that many more persons would grant their approval in the coming days.
COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory and the education ministry stated that parents who choose not to send their child to school on the days they are scheduled to attend will be enjoined with the responsibility of ensuring that the child is continuously engaged at home.
Importantly, though, the ministry said that children at home will be able to access all of the ministry’s materials on the ministry’s website.