Assistant secretary: Teachers’ issues on THA front burner

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Speyside High student Israel Melville presents a painting to Education Secretary Zorisha Hackett on Monday. Photo courtesy Speyside High School Facebook

Assistant Secretary of Education Orlando Kerr has promised teachers that their problems will be given immediate attention by the new THA administration.

The former TTUTA Tobago officer was speaking on Monday as term two of the new school year began with upper form students physically back in classrooms.

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and standards one-four students will return to the physical classroom in April (term three). Primary schools will continue to operate remotely in term two, except for standard five students who will attend school physically from February.

Kerr was among a team led by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine who visited Speyside High School on Monday.

The team comprised Augustine, Secretary of Education Zorisha Hackett, Kerr and School Supervisor III Sherry-Anne Rollocks-Hackett.

Student Dexter James and other senior students escorted the THA team around the school to highlight some of the issues affecting them and also to show them some of their achievements.

Student Israel Melville later presented one of his paintings to Hackett.

Kerr, in virtually welcoming the students back on Monday, said he is looking forward to collaborating with the hard-working staff of the division, as well as the many stakeholders in education as they seek to improve the education system on the island.

“The dust has now settled and it’s time to get down to work,” he said.

“There will be many challenges but if we work together, we’ll be able to effectively navigate these troubled times. I want to give the assurance that the numerous issues that have been plaguing our teachers here in Tobago would be placed on the front burner and would be given full attention to bring some relief to our hard-working and dedicated teachers.”

This pandemic, he said has resulted in a change in how students are engaged, and has caused a strain on education systems worldwide.

He said Tobago is not immune to the effects of the pandemic, “but with the support and guidance of this new administration, coupled with collaboration and continued effort of our stakeholders, we would be able to weather the storm and be victorious for our future generations – our students.”

Secretary Hackett called on schoolchildren to continue putting their best foot forward on their journey towards a solid education. Although the pandemic continues to cause “uncertainty, anxiety and even frustration,” she encouraged them “to keep your eyes on the prize while taking periodic breaks to relax and do the things you love – balance is therefore essential.

“Students returning to physical classes in preparation for examinations, I fervently implore you to enter this phase dreaming the impossible dream.”

This pandemic, despite its challenges, she said, should not hinder them from achieving great heights.

“Face the new term ready and willing to put in the work that your educational efforts and achievements can contribute to a Tobago that is more competitive on a national and might I dare say, global level.”

She also called on parents to continue to support to their children, as they would need love, guidance and attention, now more than ever.

“For some, if not most of us, constant supervision is not at all possible for our children who fall into the larger category to engage in virtual learning, as we still must get out to our places of work to earn a living. This therefore requires that we choose a responsible adult who can supervise our children and provide us with daily feedback on their academic progress.

“Additionally, I urge us parents to not urge our children to perform – yes, we should encourage them to be the best they can be, but putting our children under intense pressure can have serious consequences, including mental health issues, loss of interest, low self-esteem, sleep deprivation and even self-injury.”

TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Tobago officer Bradon Roberts said he visited schools in the west and the turnout was expectedly low.

“Even without the pandemic, there are schools that don’t usually have the highest numbers and considering the circumstances now, the numbers are reasonably low. It is expected that the numbers would pick up over time.”