Opposition leader supports reopening of schools but uncertain about safety protocols
November 2, 2021
Opposition leader supports reopening of schools but uncertain about safety protocols

WHILE HE AGREES that schools should be reopened for face to face instruction, opposition leader Dr Godwin Friday has expressed uncertainty about the protocols that have been put in place to ensure students’ safe return to the classroom.

The Ministry of Education announced on Friday, that all students would return to the classroom either utilising a full face to face or blended format as of November 1.

However some, including the opposition leader, have expressed concern about this decision amidst the continuing increase in positive COVID-19 cases and related deaths.

Friday, who was speaking on IKTV on Sunday noted that it was the education ministry’s job to sufficiently articulate to the general public, and specifically parents, what they intended to do to ensure that the reopening of schools for face to face instruction is done in a safe way.

“We understand the urge to go back to school. I get that, I can see it. I feel for the children who pretty much had a year and a half out of the classroom,” he said, adding that teachers have been struggling to deliver a curriculum designed for in-person teaching, online. “…But it is a responsibility of the Ministry of Education, of the government, to say this is why we are taking this decision now as opposed to two weeks ago… and why it will be safe for us to do so or why it is an acceptable risk…” The parliamentarian noted that when the pandemic had just started, there were hopes that once the COVID-19 vaccine was developed, people would get vaccinated and things would go back to being as normal as possible.

But increasing the local vaccination rate has been taking longer than anticipated.

As of Saturday, October 30, a total of 44,049 vaccines had been administered locally and just over 17,800 persons had been fully vaccinated.

“Our students are falling further and further behind and I understand the desire to get students back in the classroom as quickly as possible — well not as quickly, but I mean as safely as possible, because you have to balance the two things,” Friday said.

The opposition leader also expressed his concerns having students travelling in public transportation to get to and from school.

“How do they get to school safely and get back home in a way that does not endanger their family members? The staff and administrator in the schools themselves also have a responsibility to ensure once they are there, that they follow the protocols that the Chief Medical Officer or public health officials have identified to keep the children safe. That is going to be extremely difficult for young children,” Friday noted.

He added that safety of our students who are going to school, the staff and of course the families when they go back (home)” must be a primary concern for relevant officials.

“So the incentive to get people back to school, in the classroom, must be one that is guided by public health concerns,” he said.