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Although education stakeholders have not pushed back against the move to partially reopen schools on Monday, they have raised concerns over some schools’ ability to properly resume classes. In a release yesterday, T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas said: “Secondary schools are due to re-open on Monday 8th February 2021. To date, a number of secondary schools have not received the items necessary for proper adherence to sanitisation as part of entry protocols, in keeping with public health requirements.”“Furthermore, schools have not received the necessary funding, to provide equipment and supplies for students to do labs, practicals and School Based Assessments (SBAs), in order to satisfy the requirements of various subjects at the Form 5 and Form 6 levels,” she said. The National Parent Teachers’ Association (NPTA) public relations officer, Shamilla Raheem also raised similar concerns. “The schools are not ready with materials for such. Some more time should have been given and it should have been more thought out in terms of putting it into place,” she suggested. Although the partial reopening is for secondary school students at this time, president of the National Primary School Principals’ Association (NAPSPA) said his stakeholders are in a similar situation which he hopes is rectified soon before the proposed April reopening for standard five students. “We are hoping that by now and then that those areas that are still to be addressed in the primary schools and the ministry should have that information that those things would be addressed by then to ensure that their schools are fully prepared to apply the COVID-19 protocols,” he told Guardian Media. He also commended the decision by the Government to include teachers in the category of “essential workers” to be among the first to be inoculated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine when it arrives by early March.
Both TTUTA and the NPTA echoed the approval of the move. However, given the issues outlined by the association, the TTUTA president noted that “vaccination of teachers is but one aspect of getting our students back in school.” Responding to the claims in a brief statement to Guardian Media, Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said: “The release for grants to Government Secondary schools in the amount of $20 million was received on Tuesday 2nd February 2021. The packages for schools have been prepared and school principals have been asked to collect same tomorrow (Friday). For Government Assisted Secondary Schools, the funding was approved on Thursday 4th February, and the process for cheque generation is ongoing at this time. Those cheques should be ready for collection on Monday, February 8th 2021.”