The Prime Minister was cautious, on Friday, in his statements on the upcoming SEA examination date.
The August 20 date has been contentious for TTUTA since it was announced.
The recent closing of schools after a surge in covid19 cases sends a clear signal that children are also vulnerable to infection.
The discovery that a standard-five student at Maraval RC in a pre-SEA class had been infected caused the closure of that school; contact tracing of secondary contacts of a 43-year-old man led to a shutdown at Tacarigua Presbyterian Primary.
Both incidents were the result of cases under investigation involving families.
At Maraval RC, the principal was said to have followed preventive protocols to the letter.
These cases, in a minimalist reactivation of in-person schooling in support of examinations, signal the permeability of even the best planning for schools in September.
Potential cases of infection have triggered testing and contact tracing for more than 100 people in schools operating at a fifth of their capacity.
Newsday has already called for a cancellation of the examination this year.
Now we demand the articulation of a clear action plan from the Ministry of Education to manage remote schooling in the September term.
It’s not unreasonable to expect that with increasing numbers of clusters of the virus, the risk to children, particularly in kindergartens and in primary schools, may prove too great.
The worst mistake that the Education Ministry could make would be to underestimate the impact of spread among children.
A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control on an outbreak of covid19 at a Georgia summer camp makes it clear that gatherings of children, even under established protocols, can lead to staggering rates of infection.
Test results were only available for 344 of the more than 600 campers and staff, but among that group, the infection rate was greater than 76 per cent. The staff wore masks, but the campers did not. The longer the children were present, the greater the likelihood of infection.
Dr Rowley has correctly noted that the disruptions of the last school term did not affect all students equally, and that underprivileged children were most vulnerable to the uneven availability of schooling resources.
That must not be the case in September.
The Education Ministry has now had the experience of the last few months, including two full months of school vacation, to rally and design strategy for effective remote education if covid19 makes full, in-person schooling unwise.
The ministry is responsible for nothing less than the continuity and accessibility of education for all the children of TT and ultimately, for the future of the nation.
What’s the plan?