Minister fairly satisfied with schools opening, but some protocols need strengthening
Minister of Education Curtis King speaking with students in the very room at the Gomea Government School where he began his teaching career.
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November 2, 2021

Minister fairly satisfied with schools opening, but some protocols need strengthening

A number of schools opened their doors yesterday, November 1 for face to face learning, initiating the second phase of the resumption of schooling which began on October 4, 2021.

Students washing hands and observing protocols at the Belair Government School, under the watchful eye of a teacher.

And, the Minister of Education, Curtis King has expressed some satisfaction with what he has seen in schools in West St George .

“Generally speaking, I am fairly satisfied with what I have seen today, but some of the protocols need to be strengthened, especially as it relates to the lunchtime period,” Minister King told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.

“There are students…hustling to get lunch. But even so, where I recognised that some schools had a staggered lunch break, what I noted at some of the senior schools, the secondary schools, the staggered lunch period could have been planned better so that you do not have a large number going out at any time from classes for lunch.”

This phase “is the face to face component of the blended version,”explained King who visited schools in his constituency yesterday.

There are schools which are conducting online teaching along with having face to face classes, while some schools are having only face to face interaction involving all the students.

The schools visited by the Education Minister are Belair Government, Gomea Government, and West St. George Secondary.

“This is the phase that we are in, and it is early days yet, and we are going to have some challenges. There are going to be teething problems especially in the early stage, he noted.

The Minister of Education acknowledged that there would be teething problems initially, but called for co-operation.

“I am calling on all stakeholders – the ministry of education officials, the leadership of the schools, teachers, parents, students; let us all work together so that this thing works, because we need all on board relative to the maintenance of the protocols,” King said.

He added that, “you cannot observe the protocols if some are aware of these protocols and others are not. We cannot have full compliance in terms of the protocols if some teachers and some principals are not enforcing the protocols. We cannot get it right if the ministry itself is not supervising to ensure that all these things are in place.”

PARENTS WITH STUDENTS from Grades one and two of the Kingstown Preparatory School on their first day of face to face class

King admitted, “We do recognise of course that we are going to have some challenges in certain areas especially where social distancing or physical distancing is concerned.”

Schools have had to make adjustments to accommodate face to face learning. At the Kingstown Preparatory School, Grades 1 and 2 were the classes on premises for the first day.

An official of the school told SEARCHLIGHT that they expected about 300 students, and there would be about 15 students per classroom. The other classes would be accommodated on the other days of the week.

“We are moving towards having all our students doing face to face, and a very important criteria for that to happen is that our teachers must be vaccinated,” King said.

With the gazetting of SR& O No 28 of 2021, teachers are among the near 5,900 workers who are required to present a negative COVID-19 test when they show up for work, and must present proof of vaccination by November 19, 2021.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that some teachers were inquiring over the weekend where to go to get a test done.

The education minister is urging teachers to get vaccinated and explained that the law makes provision for those with health issues. He said teachers with health issues should go to their doctors to get the necessary reports, do what has to be done and “let us take it from there.”

He went on to say, “I am including the ‘my body my choice’ for you not to be vaccinated for you to go and get vaccinated. This country is not going to get to a level of normalcy unless we have an uptake in the vaccination.

STUDENTS OF THE Thomas Saunders Secondary School awaiting instructions on seating arrangements before entering the classrooms

“We are not going to get full face to face school if we do not have teachers taking the vaccine. It is as simple as that. In a pandemic, I urge people to stop being selfish and focus on the big picture,” King urged.

“Because if this country is not back to normal, if this country cannot produce the sort of income to make sure that the government and private sector could meet their obligations, then all of us will suffer, and health and safety will be compromised.

He added further that “everything is intricately linked. It is early days yet but those schools that I have visited, I am very encouraged because one, you see the enthusiasm on the faces of the teachers. We see the enthusiasm on the faces of the students and I am happy to say that in a number of the schools that there is definitely an effort to ensure that the protocols are observed.”

There were a number of issues which concerned the minister that he plans to take up with officials at the education ministry.