TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Tobago officer Bradon Roberts says while he supports the resumption of physical classes for standard five pupils and students in forms one to three, proper safety protocols must be established in all schools so that the initiative can be effective.
In a release on Monday, the Ministry of Education said students from forms one to three will return to face-to-face classes on February 7 on a rotational basis. It added the students should attend school for at least two days per week, and five days in a ten-day cycle.
Standard five pupils will be required to attend classes from February 7 to March 29, four days a week, between 8.30 and 2pm, to prepare for the SEA exam on March 31, 2022.
The ministry said the details of the arrangement will be communicated to parents and students by school principals.
Roberts said he supports physical engagement.
“However, schools need to be readied for such. And the conversation has gone into having persons take the vaccine. I am not against people taking the vaccine but taking it does not make the school, all of a sudden, safe,” he told Newsday.
Insisting safety protocols must be adhered to, Roberts said he was also concerned about staff shortages.
“Staff will be needed to manage the supervising of children. There will be blocks where they will be put and you will need manpower to manage that.”
He added some schools also do not have adequate furniture.
Roberts accused the ministry and the THA Division of Education, Research and Technology of not focusing on school repairs and upkeep.
“It (school repairs) is like a vehicle, if you don’t maintain it you will have to buy an engine of a new car.”
He added, “To facilitate (the students) coming out, the schools should be up to par, and we are not getting that part of the conversation going where we are seeing action in that regard.”
Roberts said while minor work is being carried out at some schools, “I don’t believe enough is being done to prevent spread (of covid19) if persons are to come back out.”
He believes the protocols for entering schools must be improved.
“It is the MTS (National Maintenance Training and Security Company Ltd) staff who does a quick scan of the temperature and you go your way. I tried to test the system to see if they would force me to wash my hands if I don’t willingly go, to see how the system really works, because there will be some students who will come into the compound without washing their hands.
“So, we need to have persons who are vigilant to these things. We do not want schools starting back and shutting down, and the way in which they are going, they are not putting measures in place to avoid shutdown.”
Roberts believes a disruption in education “is the worst thing to get at this time.”
He said students who contract covid19 may not know their primary contacts and would have to wait about two weeks to get their results.
Roberts said while virtual learning is not ideal, “it is better than a disruptive system where you have a start-stop, start-stop and people are concerned about being safe when they are going out.”