Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said specific instructions have been issued for student aides to remain with their assigned students for the remainder of the school year.
Gadsby-Dolly responded to Newsday via WhatsApp on Thursday. Student aides raised concerns this week regarding their contracts which are due to expire on April 30, protesting outside the ministry on Tuesday.
Student aides support those in need of special education, including students with dyslexia, autism, or other developmental disorders.
Gadsby-Dolly said 78 student aides are currently engaged on short-term contracts.
“The Ministry is in a position to regularise 68 student aides on three-year contracts, 50 of whom are from those on short term; so, 50 of the 78 will transition to longer contracted periods within the next two weeks.”
She said, based on need and performance, additional student aides may be engaged beyond the 68 hired on three-year contracts.
“Specific instructions have been issued that no student aide will be removed from the student they are assigned to before the end of the school year.”
Founder of Support Autism TT Dr Radica Mahase said some student aides reached out to the organisation before the protest. She said it would be detrimental for students to end student aide contracts now.
“It takes a long time to develop a relationship between aides and students,” she said, adding that the switch to a new aide, or no aide at all, could lead to setbacks for the students, who were already struggling with the switch to an online environment.
She said it is difficult for autistic students to deal with change.
“I think there needs to be a little more transparency on the selection process (of student aides) and those who were not selected need to be told why.”
She said the application process for parents to acquire an aide can take years.
A concerned mother of an autistic student, who requested anonymity, spoke to Newsday on Thursday.
She said her son is going to sit Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) in six weeks and losing his aide would be hard for him.
“He needs one-on-one support,” she said. “His aide facilitated us, even during covid19…At this junction it would severely impact my son. It is not like he could follow along (with work) on his own.”
She said her aide informed her that she was unaware of her employment status after April 30 and warned her that she may not be available to support her son.”
The mother said she had not said anything to her son yet, because she did not want to upset him until she knew for sure what would happen.
She said it took three to four months for her son to become properly acquainted with the aide, who was only assigned to him in January.