Garcia: Now not time to be combative

Education Minister Anthony Garcia. -
Education Minister Anthony Garcia. -

Education Minister Anthony Garcia says now is most certainly not the time to be combative when it comes to dealing with children’s education during the covid19 crisis.

Garcia made his feelings known in a press release sent on Good Friday in response to the stance taken by the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA).

TTUTA decided not to accede to the ministry’s request for data collection to determine the extent to which students had access to learning materials while schools remain closed because of  the covid19 pandemic.

This request was contained in a letter from acting Chief Education Officer Mervyn Sambucharan sent to principals and teachers of primary and secondary schools, dated April 9, Holy Thursday.

In the letter, Sambucharan said this information would assist in enhancing the services currently available to students, who are all at home in adherence with ongoing covid19 national regulations.

Teachers were asked to complete an online form about the provisions for students to access learning materials for March 16-April 3. This form, Sambucharan said, would take about five minutes to complete. The letter provided a link to the forms.

Principals and teachers were asked to complete the online forms at their earliest convenience and told they would be available until April 16.

But TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas responded with a circular, also dated April 9, saying the union is aware of Sambucharan’s letter and is telling all members that such a demand is not only “spurious” but also “unreasonable.”

All schools were closed during the period queried, the TTUTA president pointed out, and added that it must be emphasised that any initiative by teachers in delivering the curriculum during this time “was purely voluntary” and done in the interest of the students.

She added that there is no requirement for teachers to use their personal devices to teach from home. She said the association is advising members that they are not required to account for work done during this period and cannot be mandated to so do.

Garcia then stepped in with his Good Friday release. It said as TT continues to manoeuvre through the unprecedented experience of the pandemic, the ministry has been co-ordinating efforts with key stakeholders to continue to give all students access to a quality education.

The release thanked teachers for their dedication to the students by facilitating work from home. It said that understanding that not all teachers have been able to effectively facilitate teaching and learning, the office of the Chief Education Officer had started a data-collection exercise.

The release said the ministry established the School Learning Management System (SLMS) which can be accessed at and gives a wide range of resources for students from ECCE to CAPE. It was hoped that the data collected can also help further develop this resource.

The ministry described TTUTA’s position as “combative” and encouraged the union to partner with it, saying both parties’ interests are aligned with delivering a quality education to students while supporting all teachers.

Garcia, the release said, urged stakeholders in education to be solution-oriented.

“Now is not the time for any of us to be combative. Our country, like many others,” he said, “has been thrust into a state of uncertainty and as we figure out how best we can preserve the access to education for all students, we will need the support of our teachers, principals, parents and all stakeholders in education to achieve this goal.

“I have continued to be impressed by the commitment of the teachers of Trinidad and Tobago to our students and at this time, the ministry’s goal is to empower teachers and students with resources that will keep education flowing as we do not know when this situation will be resolved. As educators we all know that this situation is not a vacation but a time for us to be creative and innovative in order to reach our students and ensure that our country’s future is preserved.”


"Garcia: Now not time to be combative"

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