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The Secretary now responsible for Education in the Tobago House of Assembly Marslyn Melville-Jack is assuring that the islands’ secondary schools are well equipped to manage the threat of COVID-19. However, TTUTA Tobago Officer Bradon Roberts says there are too many infrastructural and noncompliant COVID-19 safety issues for teachers and students to be comfortable at schools on the island.

Melville Jack and an entourage of the various department heads toured five of the nine secondary schools on the island yesterday, where she observed the students involved in the latest transitional phase of face to face learning.

After completing the tour Secretary Jack said she was satisfied with the state of preparedness at most of the secondary schools

“I am really satisfied that when you go out to school you are really in a safe place. We have the safety officers in their numbers, all the cleaners who will be sanitizing rooms as soon as the classes are finished, we have people working to sanitize those desk before another class comes in.”

She also assured that systems are in place to treat with the eventuality of a student reporting to school with flu-like symptoms.

“Most schools have what we call an isolation unit and this could be a simple as a tent with chairs, once the student exhibits a high temperature that student will be sent to the isolation area, they would not be allowed into the mainstream population.”

Melville- Jack said the labs at Roxborough Secondary and Harmons School for the SDA are up and running however the Mason Hall Secondary reported challenges with plumbing and three of the labs at the Signal Hill Secondary School are also incomplete.

The Secretary said, temporary labs have been set up in alternative classrooms and in some cases, teachers have decided to teach the theoretical aspect of the subject while work is on-going.

But TTUTA Tobago Officer Bradon Roberts who toured schools as well, said the Secretary was “misleading and disappointing”. He said the labs being referred to were down for a number of years and the state of some of the schools were “worse than he expected.”

“We always talk about the underperformance of Tobago’ students but we are not allowing the Tobago students to properly use the labs,” he said.

Roberts said the physical condition of the Mason Hall high School is generating the most concern.

“There appears to be an underground line that has erupted and you could actually hear that water gushing out on the compound, that is a major leak and will require immediate and serious solutions before it creates substantive damage to the school’s infrastructure.”

He said a number of principals have also reported challenges with accessing resources as their allocations have been reduced, and one school even reported that there was no hand sanitiser on the compound.

Roberts said the Secretary and the Division’ were trying to “paint a perfect picture” instead of truly working to improve the condition of schools on the island.