Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Tobago officer Bradon Roberts said the resumption of face-to-face classes for forms four, five and six students on Monday will not go as planned as there are still many unresolved issues.
Roberts, who toured Goodwood Secondary and Roxborough Secondary on Monday, said he is concerned that the student turnout will be significantly low as the percentage of fully vaccinated students on the island falls below 40 per cent.
Tobago began its Pfizer vaccination rollout for 12 to 18 year olds on August 19. As of September 17, Tobago had 1,848 partially vaccinated students and 937 fully vaccinated. The Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development had earlier said 6,000 students would be targeted for the Pfizer jab the only World Health Organization-approved vaccine for children.
Roberts said."In the two schools (Goodwood Secondary and Roxborough Secondary) put together, there are 39 students who are vaccinated – 22 in one school and 17 in another. Those numbers are not from the group of students that are allowed to return to face-to-face classes, those numbers are from the total amount of children vaccinated in the entire school. But let's say all 17 and 22 are from the form four, five and six group, which is still too low to disrupt the online learning since the majority of students will be at home."
Roberts said the imbalance will result in online students being neglected.
"Teachers will not have the opportunity to properly push their resources to treat those online."
An official from the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development confirmed the percentage of vaccinated students remains alarming low.
Roberts said another area of concern is asking teachers to work in sub-standard conditions at schools. After visiting the two schools, he said he is not convinced that repairs on Tobago schools will be completed on time.
Roberts said some schools are unsuitable and unsafe for teachers and students. Asked if teachers would be advised to stay away from classes at schools with poor structures, Roberts said he will do what has to be done to protect the well-being of all teachers. "I would not want to give away any plans of the association, however, we are actively discussing, monitoring and analysing the situation and possible outcomes, and if it is necessary we will call or advise the teachers within this week."
Roberts said internet connectivity at the schools hasn't been sorted out as yet. Roberts said the issue doesn't lie with the division's efforts but with its vision for the future of Tobago's education system post-covid.
Roberts said the education sector must be given an adequate allocation or Tobago "will never get to that place where we can really treat with our student's needs.
"Things like labs falling apart, the primary schools are never ready when its time for students to return – they have so many issues. Even if we get vaccines for the younger ones, I'm not sure if and when it would be safe for children to return. We have been building infrastructure in Tobago without the goal of repairing it."
Roberts said TTUTA Tobago will make an official statement after visiting six secondary schools in Tobago later this week.
Attempts to reach Marslyn Melville Jack Secretary of the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy were unsuccessful.
Newsday also tried to contact TRHA's General Manager of Primary Care Dr Roxanne Mitchell and County Medical Officer of Health for Tobago Dr Tiffany Hoyte, but all calls were unanswered.