THE redesigned school curriculum in Tobago under the leadership of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) will be Tobago-centric, Secretary of Education, Research and Technology Zorisha Hackett has said.
She spoke at the Tobago House of Assembly's (THA) first quarterly report, which was carried live on the Office of the Chief Secretary’s Facebook page on Monday.
Hackett said the new approach will improve student performance through reviewing the mission, vision and goals of the division.
She said interdisciplinary approaches to education would incorporate other divisions within the THA "to promote overall quality of life for Tobagonians. The revision of the curriculum, as I said before, to include Tobago-centric content and contexts, extensive stakeholder engagement of all staff, students, parents and general public that will be inclusive to the education sector, amounting in higher rates of digital literacy.”
She said programmes and projects will target different learners and promote inclusivity within the formal and informal education system. There is a draft document on revising the current organisational structure and human resources.
Addressing the payment of outstanding debts, Hackett said this was a sore point for many, including her, before she was appointed secretary, and this is a priority for her.
In the first quarter 89 employees were paid their gratuities, totalling $6,123,650.91, while increments for 57 teachers were assessed at $1,954,943.50.
“We have recruited additional HR personnel to treat with the backlog of permanent, temporary and acting appointments and the various queries that will come back from the Teaching Service Commission. Monthly targets have now been set with the HR unit and we anticipate that within six months, these issues will alleviate.”
Her division also completed emergency work in both primary and secondary schools on plumbing and air-conditioning. The Goodwood Secondary School received a $400,000 facelift, which included tiling the principal’s office as well as refurbishing air-conditioning units at the school.
While she did not give a cost for these upgrades, Hackett said the labs for the Scarborough, Mason Hall, Speyside, Goodwood and Roxborough Secondary Schools, as well as the Harmon School of the Seventh-Day Adventists, have been completed.
The repair work at the labs for Bishop's High School was completed, but the division is waiting for taps to be installed and for the fire service to certify the labs before they are used. The same was done for the Pentecostal Life and Light Funding Foundation High School.
For $725,020.45 all the water tanks for both primary and secondary schools were cleaned, she said, displaying a before-and-after picture. There are 36 primary schools and nine secondary schools on the island, according to the division’s website.
She said close to $40,000 was spent on masks, hand sanitiser and tissues for the 989 students who sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam last week.
For the first quarter, 1,007 electronic devices were given to teachers and students.
She said with all schools reopening fully for term three, the division ordered furniture for the 45 schools on the island: for primary schools 125 infant tables and chairs were ordered, along with 114 chairs for teachers, 500 student desks and chairs and 37 whiteboards, all of which will be delivered by April 11. For secondary schools, 300 teachers’ desks were ordered, as well as one special desk for a special-needs student, 696 metal desks, 225 general-purpose chairs, 220 wooden stools, two executive chairs with executive desks, 20 filing cabinets, 19 storage cupboards and 1,200 chairs. These too will be delivered by April 11.
Hackett boasted of being the first to have recruited a doctor who will serve as education house officer and two nurses for the Education Health Unit, with two more nurses to be recruited.
She said the division met with all stakeholders on the school maxi-taxi transport service and said all outstanding issues will be settled before school reopens. Maxi-taxi drivers complained of late payment by the division in the past.
The division is now drafting a policy to ensure consistency in awarding financial contributions to students who excel in SEA, Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams.