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Tabaquite MP and shadow education minister Anita Haynes.

Member for Tabaquite Ms Anita Haynes says some parents are concerned about the health of their children when they return to school especially those with respiratory illnesses. In a press release issued today, she said that in her constituency “several parents have shared that they are not in a financial position to send their children to school every day, especially with school transportation services not fully operational in a number of rural areas.”

The following is a press release from MP Haynes:

The Member of Parliament for Tabaquite, Ms. Anita Haynes, notes the preparations for the full re-opening of all schools in Term III of Academic Year 2021/2022 as outlined by Ministry of Education officials during a media conference today.

While a number of key issues were addressed, MP Haynes highlights areas of concern that must be better managed going forward, “Today we heard about policies, new and existing, as well as ongoing data collection – but not much data was shared to encourage the buy-in of stakeholders who are not yet fully on-board. As a matter of fact, the data that was revealed to us served more to fan the flames of worry rather than provide comfort, particularly the news that repairs are still ongoing to multiple facilities mere days before the SEA exam.”

MP Haynes reveals that, during the media conference, a number of parents and guardians reached out to her expressing their concerns surrounding the lack of a flexible schedule, “Many persons have already contacted me to express their anxiety now that students are required to attend physical classes every day. Some persons are worried about the sanitation provisions that have proven insufficient thus far while others are concerned about the health of their children with auto-immune and respiratory illnesses. In my constituency of Tabaquite, several parents have shared that they are not in a financial position to send their children to school every day, especially with school transportation services not fully operational in a number of rural areas.”

The Member of Parliament asserts that the reopening “reflects a rush to resume the status quo” saying, “The Minister of Education said it herself, the most recently scheduled meeting with TTUTA was postponed and the ministry requires assistance from various state agencies to tackle key challenges such as student absenteeism, school violence and the mental well-being of students. We also know that resources such as the Student Support Services Division are understaffed and already overwhelmed, now they are expected to execute even more functions in short order. Why not prepare better for the next academic year instead of rushing to reopen in April?”

Haynes also underscored the continued lack of consideration for students preparing to sit Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations as well as students with special needs. Moreover, she emphasised that no strategy to specifically treat with the over 46,000 students who have never accessed online learning platforms across primary and secondary school has been disclosed.

“The entire nation supports the safe return of students to physical classes. However, as I’ve said before, it should not be a return simply for return’s sake. The disruption caused by the pandemic provided an opportunity to reassess, innovate and improve. Merely returning to face-to-face classes, without data-based changes in education delivery, does not address learning loss and is a source of stress to many stakeholders.”