Tabaquite MP and shadow education minister Anita Haynes.

Member of Parliament for Tabaquite Ms Anita Haynes says consultation between stakeholders and the Ministry of Education on the re-opening of schools is a step in the right direction. However, she says many parents of ECCE and early primary school students have expressed their concerns to her over the re-opening of schools at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Following is the full press release from the MP:

Following the Ministry of Education’s announcement regarding the physical re-opening of schools in January 2022, the Member of Parliament for Tabaquite, Ms. Anita Haynes, is lending her voice to citizens who still have reservations, particularly as it relates to younger students returning to in-person classes.

Haynes notes, “The Ministry’s recent series of consultations is a step in the right direction as all stakeholders must work together toward the safe re-opening of schools.

However, many parents of ECCE and early primary school students have expressed to me their concern that the re-opening of schools is set to take place at the height of our COVID-19 experience in Trinidad and Tobago. With national vaccine uptake still low and the presence of a more contagious variant, these concerns cannot be swept away.”

The Member of Parliament acknowledges the measures to be implemented but noted the challenges that various schools face due to a lack of resources including increased financial costs of regular sanitation and the purchase of more cleaning supplies.

Ms Haynes asserts, “The New Normal is evolving and we have the opportunity now to institute an improved status quo. We have the opportunity to address inequities in our education system and revise issues of contention such as the format of key assessments.

We also have room for innovation, greater incorporation of technology and wider inclusion of students with special needs. What is most important though is the safety of our learning spaces. We are also yet to see what effect the government’s most recent stance on the vaccination of public servants will have on school staffing.”

MP Haynes urges the Ministry of Education to reconsider the policy for our nation’s youngest students and to encourage more robust stakeholder buy-in to the eventual re-opening of schools by addressing some of the existing problems in the education system, “We can’t deny that there has been significant learning losses over the last two years and students have also missed out on peer interaction.

Additionally, the mental health of all parties and how it affects outcomes must be considered. Indeed, COVID-19 is the biggest disruption we’ve had in decades. We need to ask ourselves if we’ve made the best of the disruption and are now advancing with an improved system. And, even as we attempt to advance, we must do so with compassion and extreme caution for the most vulnerable among us.”