File: Signal Hill Secondary School students wait to get their temperatures taken by security before entering the school compound in October 2021.

The Division of Education, Research and Technology in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is promising Tobagonians that all schools will at least have the basic amenities come February 7.

The assurance came from the Division’s Assistant Secretary, Orlando Kerr who said while debate on the logistics of reopening is ongoing, “the reality is come the 7th of February our schools will be open, whether we agree with the situation or not.”

But speaking at the THA’s Post-Executive Council Briefing, Kerr said one major issue facing the division is the infrastructural readiness of the schools.

“Our primary schools would have been closed for almost two years. It means that many of those buildings will be without persons occupying them, there was no vacation repair program in 2021 on those buildings and would lead to further problems.”

Kerr said the Education Division will be partnering with the Division of Works and a team will be visiting all primary schools to ascertain what upgrades are needed.

“We have ageing infrastructure, many of our schools are as old as I am and therefore, we all know the challenges.”

The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association had previously raised concerns about infrastructure and said that the schools needed more time to prepare.

Kerr said he is very cognizant of that, he understands it will be a huge and costly challenge but at least the basic amenities will be there for the children.

“What we are aiming to do is to ensure that every school has the basics, so lighting, electrical, water, plumbing will be up to date and to ensure the environment is safe and clean for our students.”

Kerr said this is the short-term goal and he’s hoping that when the July/August vacation period comes this year, more meaningful repair work will be done.

Meanwhile, Kerr sought to assure parents of students that all necessary sanitising stations will be operational.

He revealed yesterday that the Division of Education is currently setting up a health unit that will exclusively cater to students who fall ill during classes.

“That unit will comprise of a doctor, nurses and other support staff, it is not complete at this time but we are hoping to have that done as soon as possible, we recognise that there is a need for that as part of our COVID-19 response because once schools reopen there will be incidents of COVID-19 and we must have a proper response and our health professionals are part of that.”