RADHICA DE SILVA
Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly has shut down an appeal from booksellers to be allowed to operate during the latest COVID-19 lockdown.
Responding to calls from the booksellers that students will suffer without access to stationary and past papers, Gadsby-Dolly said if the COVID spike is not reduced significantly, students will suffer even more.
“Very quickly, we will face significant challenges in administering the very examinations for which students are preparing. At this time, the emphasis must be placed on getting those numbers down so that the examinations can proceed, and all businesses can continue to operate,” she said.
She added, “The opportunity for completion of practicals at secondary schools has been preserved in the face of many other restrictions; most students are at the tail end of this process.”
However, if supplies run low, Gadsby-Dolly promised that the ministry will assist.
“If specific schools need critical materials, they can escalate that to the ministry and all efforts will be made to accommodate them. However, at this time, we urge all to heed the restrictions in place so that the ability to host these critical examinations is not compromised,” she urged.
She added, “ The quicker we comply and get our numbers down is the quicker we can return to a semblance of normalcy for all, and give our students the best chance for success.”
On Tuesday, the president of the Greater San Fernando Chamber of Industry and Commerce Kiran Singh added his voice to the growing calls for bookstores to remain open during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We agree with the call that all bookstores should remain open. School children still have to go to school. The term has just started. The SEA exam is coming up in a month. We have students writing CAPE and CSEC and they will need to get supplies,” he said.
He added, “ I believe that book stores have to remain open for the sake of the children so they can get stationery supplies and textbooks to continue studying during this pandemic.”
Meanwhile, former librarian at the San Fernando Carnegie Free Library Reynold Bassant, who now works at Mohammed’s Bookstore and Associates, also told Guardian Media that bookstores should stay open.
With a high level of stress caused by the pandemic, Bassant said people needed books, adding that with online school, it was important for bookstores to stay open.
But Khalid Khan, a director at Keith Khan Books Etc, said while the shutdown had “upset to a lot of bookstores, the Prime Minister did what was necessary to curb the rising cases.”
“While we would have liked to remain open we cannot keep putting our staff and families at risk. It will be hard but we have to remain positive during this lockdown period. We urge parents to work closely with their children and provide as much support during this time as it is a very crucial period for all students both primary and secondary. It has taken a great toll on students and parents just have to continuously be understanding and supportive,” Khan said.
Nasser Khan, the owner of Next Generation Bookstore in Rio Claro said he has been getting many calls from worried parents since the shutdown was announced. Both he and the owner of Mohammed’s Bookstore and Associates said booksellers should be regarded as an essential service.