RC Education Board head: Vaccine hesitancy shows need to teach critical thinking

Sharon Mangroo. - Marvin Hamilton
Sharon Mangroo. - Marvin Hamilton

As vaccine hesitancy continues to be a roadblock to Trinidad and Tobago’s covid19 vaccination drive, Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) CEO Sharon Mangroo wants the Ministry of Education to see the issue as a need for critical-thinking skills to be more widely incorporated into the education system.

Mangroo spoke to Newsday on Wednesday after she helped distribute awards at a staff recognition ceremony at Presentation College in San Fernando.

With widespread misinformation about covid19 vaccines, especially on social media, Mangroo said the issue should signal the need to “pay more attention to teaching critical thinking in our schools, and not leaving it to come by the way.”

She urged, “People need to understand how to know when something is factual, how to fact-check information and how to weigh information. They need to know what information to accept and what not to accept.”

Though unable to provide an exact figure, Mangroo said there was a high vaccination rate among teachers at schools managed by the CEBM. But she admits the same cannot be said for students.

“We have a pretty high vaccination rate among our schools, but of course it varies from school to school.

“Overall, we have a pretty high vaccination rate for the teachers. But not so much for the students, because that varies a lot.

“We will continue outreach to them and their parents to provide information that is specific to individuals.”

Mangroo said the CEBM also hopes the Education Ministry finalises a plan which ensures that not only forms four and six students are able to engage in physical schooling.

At the ministry’s stakeholder meeting on Monday, Mangroo said three proposals on the issue were put forward for consideration.

The first proposal wants the ministry to consider allowing physical schooling for students who are still without the means to properly engage in online learning.

“The second recommendation is that the ministry provides an online question-and-answer forum so that people can post and get authoritative answers from the Ministry of Education. Otherwise, we have people remaining with questions, which feeds into the mistrust of the ministry and their policies.

“The third recommendation is that we make good use of the days that children can be in school…it means things like paying special attention to individuals who may have been falling behind, so it’s just not another day.

“We are all for the physical reopening of school as much as it is safe to do so.”

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