Georgetown, GY – In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education has temporarily closed all public schools to allow children to be home with their families and avoid potential infection. This well-intended and necessary measure, however, has dire consequences for students aged 11-12 who were preparing for the high-stakes National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA). The NGSA is the nation-wide examination used to transition students from primary to secondary education. Traditionally, students who failed this exam (formerly known as the Common Entrance Examination) end up in community high schools with little to no career prospects.
Most students, particularly those living in suburban and rural neighbourhoods do not have access to the internet. Even in those neighbourhoods where there is some access, the quality of service is extremely poor. This leaves the majority of these students without access to good quality education materials to remain engaged during the COVID-19 lockdown period and not suffer a lapse in learning. For these students, particularly those in low-income and poor families, this lockdown and lack of academic learning would, unfortunately, weigh heavily on their education and career success.
For perspective, the NGSA has a 38% pass rate in Mathematics, a 42% pass rate in Science, a 57% pass rate in English, and a 39% pass rate in Social Studies. These pass rates are in normal circumstances when there is no disruption in teaching and other academic activities. These pass rates reflect critical deficiencies in the public early education system. The impact of this lockdown and loss of learning is likely to be catastrophic on students’ cognitive development and future academic performance. The NGSA was for April 8 and 9 has been postponed indefinitely as part of the COVID-19 lockdown.
As if the COVID-19 pandemic is not enough, the country has been embroiled in a political and economic crisis that amplified since March 2, 2020, after the General and Region Elections. Amidst widespread claims of electoral fraud and unanimous condemnation by the international community of the lack of credibility in the tabulation process, and threats of international sanctions the incumbent government is refusing to abide by the rule of law and ensure a credible culmination of the election process. Consequently, it is unlikely that the education system will receive timely and urgent attention and adequate resources to adequately safeguard the future of its students.
EMERGENCY PROJECT RESPONSE
Against this background, a team of students and teachers from Harvard University have partnered with the Guyana Budget and Policy Institute to help fill this gap by developing and publishing and distributing high-quality educational materials specifically Grade 5 and 6 students currently in the pipeline to take the NGSA. The project is collaborating with local printing companies, local government officials, school principals and teachers, and parents to ensure the materials produced by the from Harvard and the Guyana Budget and Policy Institute reach students especially those outside the urban core and low-income and poor communities.
SUPPORT THIS PROJECT
Individuals and businesses desirous of contributing to the project can make a financial donation here (Select One-Time Donation). All donations will be used to pay for printed copies for distribution to students from low-income and poor communities across the country. GBPI is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax-deductible.
* Boamattie Singh is a Co-Founder and Chief Finance Officer of the Guyana Budget & Policy Institute.