School resumes Monday but TTUTA, UWI Guild have concerns

Students return to physical classes today as the second academic term kicks off. If all goes according to plan as announced by the Ministry of Education, the term will see the largest transition back into classrooms since the pandemic began in March 2020.

However, TTUTA is doubtful the plan could become a reality because of the country’s COVID-19 cases.

Much like the last academic term, Forms 4 to 6 secondary school children will be back out to school today, Monday. Tertiary students will also be allowed to return to physical classes. However, the University of the West Indies Guild of Students expressed concern over the move in a letter to Campus Principal, Professor Brian Copeland. Chief among their concerns, is if the UWI would be returning to physical classes now that the permission is granted.

“We are aware that some students are required to stay on campus for practicals and labs required for their degree, while others are content with remote learning due to worldwide travel restrictions and concern for their safety. However, the question is whether the university will reopen its gates to all students,” the letter said.

Students in Forms 1-3 or equivalent will return to the classrooms in February on a rotational basis. They will utilise online learning platforms until then. Standard 5 primary school students will also return to the classroom in February to prepare for the March 31 Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA). All other students will continue with remote learning.

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) along with Standards 1-4 will resume physical classes on a rotational basis in Term 3, which begins in April.

A release from the ministry last month noted: “Though we are forging ahead towards normalcy, we must be mindful that we are still operating in a pandemic, and all decisions must be contextualized by this reality.”

“These proposed plans are predicated on the health circumstances of Trinidad and Tobago, and further details of physical attendance will be released after consultation with stakeholders,” it said.

During the first term of this academic year, Form 4-6 secondary school students returned to classes. In the three months, 164 COVID-19 cases emerged among staff and students in at least 12 schools across the country.

It’s why the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) had doubts if the return plan will go as conceptualized.

“At this point in time we are not sure if that return will happen the way it’s predicted. We’d have to look and see how the cases go, the caseload and how it impacts the schools and the students,” TTUTA president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas said.

One of the organisation’s concerns, she said, was the ability for teachers, students and staff to be tested and receive timely results if they believe they were exposed.

“That is something we see as very serious and when we look at the timeframe between when you get tested and when you get your test results, we do believe in the education sector- that is something that needs to be addressed,” she said.

She said the union met with Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly on December 10 where it put forth some recommendations. However, she said they were not updated on if it was accepted.

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