TTUTA still concerned over reopening of schools

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TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas. –

TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Antonia De Freitas says teachers still have “many concerns” as students preparing for 2021 examinations begin returning to physical classrooms from next Monday.

This announcement was made by Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly on January 27. She said students set to return include those in standard five and forms four, five and six who will be preparing for the SEA, CSEC and CAPE examinations, respectively.

The secondary school students return on February 8 while the primary school students will return on April 12.

The education ministry also set up a district health unit with 14 nurses headed by one doctor. Two nurses will be assigned to each educational district.

Speaking with Newsday on Sunday morning, De Freitas said funding is one of TTUTA’s main concerns, “for them to not only prepare the schools in terms of cleaning and restorative work, but also to ensure that the labs and the workshops are properly equipped.

“To call out the children to do labs and do preparation is a bit difficult without the necessary funding to buy the necessary equipment.”

She said teachers and principals voiced this concern to the minister.

De Freitas said the entry (safety) protocols at the schools are cause for concern as not all schools were able to get basic items like thermal scanners.

“And some thermal scanners at the schools are already malfunctioning at this time, so they have to replace or find some other means to test temperatures…

“Additionally, the issue of sanitisers and cleaning agents, the schools have not received any supply of those items since last year when they prepared for the reopening for the CSEC and CAPE exams 2020.”

She continued, “Again, if we don’t have funding for the school, then supplies cannot be bought. It cannot be that schools are expected to purchase that out of their funds. The State should be providing those things for all schools.”

De Freitas said she is also pleading with parents, students and teaching and non-teaching staff to be responsible.

On the creation of the ministry’s health unit, she said she is a bit worried about the response time for schools in certain areas.

“For instance, if we look at the geography of some parts of the country and how schools are placed out…If that health unit is placed in Sangre Grande, for example, the response time for those particular practitioners to get to a school in Valencia or Toco or Matelot, those would be challenging issues…and even some places in South.

“While we welcome the deployment of medical personnel, there needs to be some discussion with TTUTA and principals as to how best we can position and locate the personnel to adequately serve the needs of these schools at this time.”

She said it cannot be that the same number of medical professionals would be made available when primary school students return to school as it wouldn’t be enough.

She said students would take some time to adapt to being in a physical classroom again and urged parents not to set expectations that are too high.

“Remember, this cohort of form five students were the form fours of last year. And so, the expectation that they would know their way around labs, and that they understood all the content, and that coming out to do the practice drills would be easy, we have to recognise teachers have a lot of work to catch up on with them.

“They (teachers) are trying their best to see how they can set timetables for the students so they can achieve maximum benefits. We have to remember, in many instances, some of the teachers going back out to teach the forms four, five and six also teach the lower school (levels). So again, expectations have to be adjusted.”

She called on the public for its understanding and assistance. And having raised these concerns with the minister, she hopes to get feedback soon.

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