Antonia De Freitas, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA).

The head of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) is lamenting the Education Ministry’s failure to engage in consultation on the opening of the new school term.

According to Antonia De Freitas, as a key stakeholder, TTUTA needed to be involved in more talks with the Ministry over the policies expected to be rolled out to facilitate COVID-19 protocols.

Among the measures announced are spaced out classrooms and a proposed shift system, but De Freitas said there were loopholes in the Ministry’s school reopening guidelines.

“Whilst we are not surprised about the dates projected, which are similar to our normal academic year,” she says, “the issue of how we are going to implement remedial work during this academic year is of some concern to us.”

According to the TTUTA president, not much consideration was given to special needs students.

“Going forward, there is definitely a need to have more done for students already in special schools, whether public or private,” Antonia De Freitas stated. “Students in some private special schools did not have the opportunity to engage virtually at all, again because of a lack of facilities.”

“We must remember also those students with special needs in the mainstream—in our public primary, secondary and ECCE schools,” she added.

With regard to the issue of a shift system in schools, the TTUTA head says they are in agreement with implementing the blended learning / hybrid model of education, which involves some students in the classroom and some getting instruction from online portals.

However, she is concerned that Ministry’s plan is to take the virtual teaching strategy used during the recent COVID lock down period and merely transfer it into this hybrid / blended learning model.

“Teachers and parents need to be shown exactly how this new learning modality is expected to work, since it will greatly impact the functioning of both their professional and personal lives,” she points out.

Antonia De Freitas says the level of planning required to properly implement it here is considerable, especially in determining students’ and teachers’ schedules for both real world and cyberspace, among other issues.