Health of T&T’s children and teachers at risk! TTUTA urges schools to act—if gov’t won’t 

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“[…] No stipend, nor high stakes examination, is worth exposing the nation’s children, teachers and the national community to the possible risks associated with the pandemic…”

The following is a statement from Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas, which urges the government to close schools due to the current spike in Covid-19 cases:

Photo: Children go to school with masks in Mumbai during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) advises all Standard Five teachers and principals to immediately discontinue face to face classes with their charges.

We have called for cessation of these classes in order to protect pupils and teachers—but our calls have fallen on deaf ears. The closure of 10 schools due to the impact of Covid-19 is an indication of the seriousness of the situation. The continued increase of local cases is indeed alarming.

The Association’s calls for closure of schools is not fuelled by careless speculation or unchecked emotion. The action is influenced by available science and proven public health practices—all measures which we consider to be the best approach in making decisions regarding the health of our pupils and teachers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We hold firmly to the view that with the right support from the Ministry of Education, students can be engaged online to complete their preparation.

TTUTA does not take this decision flippantly and has no desire to obstruct the administration of the SEA examination on 20 August 2020. TTUTA is committed however to protecting the well-being of our members.

Photo: Education Minister Anthony Garcia (right) and Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Francis Lovell.
Neither MP was returned to contest the 2020 election.

TTUTA insists that the Ministry of Education engage external invigilators, instead of teachers, to supervise students on the day of the examination.

TTUTA rejects the notion that closure of schools at this time will be detrimental to the economic state of our country. No stipend, nor high stakes examination, is worth exposing the nation’s children, teachers and the national community to the possible risks associated with the pandemic.

TTUTA posits that the health and well-being of persons is integral to the successful continuation of formal education in this country.

We are acting with the greatest degree of responsibility, therefore we implore the MOE and all stakeholders in education to likewise exhibit a similar level of responsibility.

Editor’s Note: The 10 primary schools closed for sanitising, over the past two weeks, due to Covid-19 scares were: Maraval RC, Tacarigua Presbyterian, St Augustine South Government Primary, Montrose Government Primary, Charlieville ASJA, Arima West Government Primary, St Michael’s Anglican, Iere Village Government, St Mary’s Government and Fifth Company Baptist Primary, while a child and teacher also tested positive at the St Jude’s Home for Girls.

Photo: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh.

On Saturday, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh passed an amendment to the Public Health Novel Coronavirus regulations, which said schools were not to open ‘for the purpose of providing education’ other than ‘for persons for the purpose of examination for SEA, CSEC [and] CAPE’ until 30 September 2020.

However, Deyalsingh yesterday said the changes in the public health ordinance related to schools were an ‘oversight’ which would be fixed. He did not explain further and his communications official, Candice Alcantara, declined comment.

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