The Ministry of Education has come under heavy criticism by opposition MP Anita Haynes for what she described as a “sloppy roll out of virtual learning for this school term.”
In a media release, she said the learning packages and school meals that were announced have not materialised, placing blame at the feet of Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, accusing the minister of making announcements while failing to properly execute any of the plans being proposed.
Haynes said, “We are now a full week into the school term and many students and teachers are still uncertain as to the way moving forward.
“Parents were also frustrated by the haphazard nature of the plans by the Ministry of Education to distribute school lunches.”
She told Newsday in a phone interview, the lack of proper planning and communication have worsened the situation, again accusing the Government of gambling with children’s education.
Haynes explained that a number of parents who do not have access to online learning came to her constituency office (MP for Tabaquite) to collect learning packages, either paper-based or a flash drive, as well as meals under the school feeding programme.
“The ministry’s website said it was the responsibility of the teachers to prepare these packages and a lot of people were looking to access the packages for different reasons. I wish they would take this up on a humanitarian level instead of a blanket plan, because many people due to socio-economic issues are making do with very little.
“Not all MPs were called by the school feeding programme to get the lunches for distribution. I have not seen any announcement about a cancellation and people are now looking for it,” she said.
Haynes said the issue was not with virtual learning, and while she acknowledged there would be challenges, she said the manner in which it was being done, "with disregard to the public," was alarming.
She said, “I am asking for consultation with teachers. Are they sure schools will be able to put the plans in place?
“They are passing a responsibility over and not giving people the necessary assistance. They have to be very serious about what they are doing and not just highlight those who successfully engage in virtual learning and ignore the fact there were a number of students who did not have school.”
Attempts to contact Gadsby-Dolly were unsuccessful. However, she shared the ministry's guidelines for the re-opening of schools for school administrators, teachers and parents on her social media pages.
TTUTA acknowledges logistical challenges
TT Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA) president Antonia De Freitas admitted there were still many logistical challenges to be worked out.
She said while the ministry has considered some of their recommendations, teachers were trying their best to fulfil the requirements with limited resources.
De Freitas told Newsday that planning and preparation, time management, curriculum delivery and student discipline are just some of the challenges.
“While the ministry allocated two hours a day for planning and preparation, the time for an online class can in no way be compared to time to plan for a face-to-face class. We are finding teachers spending more than two hours to plan. In many instances this is impacting on the teachers work-life balance,” she said.
De Freitas added that further complications lie with student disciple and distribution of packaged learning material to students who were unable to access virtual learning.
She said, “It cannot be acceptable that students are disrespectful and expect the educators to return the next day and the students have not faced any consequences. The ministry has to develop a significant plan for how they are going to deal with such students.
De Freitas said it was disheartening that there has not been support from the public on the matter, which has been demoralising and demotivating for the educators.