Concerned Parents’ Movement: Make schools a safe zone or end vaccination policy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Bishop’s High School principal Cindy Ramnarine, right, ensures all protocols are followed at the school gate as vaccinated students from forms four, five and six enter the compound for classes on Monday.
Photo by David Reid

EITHER make schools a safe zone so that everyone entering the compound is vaccinated or ensure no student who is unvaccinated is not discriminated against.

Chairman of the Concerned Parents’ Movement of TT Clarence Mendoza made the call on Sunday, as he berated the Prime Minister’s insistence that unvaccinated students are not being discriminated against.

At a press conference on Saturday, Dr Rowley said parents of unvaccinated children cannot say their children are being discriminated against because they are not being allowed on school compounds.

Instead, the PM said parents of unvaccinated children must see the issue as a consequence of their choice as they have the choice to vaccinate their children or not.

However, Mendoza said there are not only inconsistencies in the government’s policy for vaccinated students, but there’s also inconsistencies between the safe zone and educational policies.

And it is for those reasons, Mendoza said it leaves one to believe that unvaccinated students are being discriminated against.

For starters, Mendoza said not everyone entering school compounds are required to get vaccinated.

“We are aware that other (school staff) members entering school compounds are not vaccinated. We know some teachers, MTS workers and cleaners are not being checked by the gate like students.

“If the MTS guard at the gate is checking to see is vaccinated, then I think they themselves should check themselves first and be vaccinated to be on the compound.”

But apart from the inconsistencies in vaccination requirements to enter schools, Mendoza said if it is so important for students to be vaccinated then schools should be made safe zones and ensure everyone entering the compound is vaccinated.

“The Prime Minister has not said anything about our schools being a safe zone.

“We are now asking, is our school a safe zone? If it’s not a safe zone, then our children (both vaccinated and not) should be allowed to enter the school compound.”

“We at the Concerned Parents Movement think that the discrimination is clear and our children are being segregated also.”

He said the UN Charter, of which TT is a signatory, mandates that all children are afforded equal educational opportunities.

He said this will not be possible if, for example, some students are doing practicums in-person with teachers and some are not.

On Saturday, Rowley said if the World Health Organisation approves a vaccine for children below the age of 12, the Government would get it and make it mandatory.

However, Mendoza said, “At this point in time we don’t agree with vaccinating our children until proper standards are put in the place for those vaccines.

“I see where the government of TT is following the trend of other countries.”

While chairman of the Association of Denominational Boards of Education Sharon Mangroo opted to make no comments on the PM’s discrimination position, she is concerned like Mendoza about the quality of learning, especially for students doing practicums in-person and those who are not.

“The Catholic schools have concerns about how are we going to manage having secondary children, who are not vaccinated, complete their exam requirements.

“If they (unvaccinated) students don’t get their labs, practical and school-based-assessments done, they can’t pass their examinations.

“I am not looking at blaming and criticising, but I’m looking at it as a situation that is there and the best way we can deal with it.”

She said a close relative in the United Kingdom tested postive for covid19 and for her this raised concerns about unvaccinated children returning to school.

“What else is there to say? It is not safe at this time for the unvaccinated children. England has brought children back out to school but the reality is some children are getting covid.

“Covid19 is very real.”

In a recent release, the Single Fathers’ Association said it continued to oppose any action that can “negatively impact the meaningful education of our nation’s children.”

“We are now calling on the Minister of Education to state if the emergency covid19 vaccine is now mandatory for students while it remains a choice for adults.

“Our organisation would like to remind the Ministry of Education of the absenteeism and school dropout issues that existed before covid19 and would discourage them from taking any action that would worsen the already rising numbers that have drastically increased.

“We are calling on the Education Minister to guarantee the nation that the ministry will fulfil its mandate and deliver a safe and impartial framework so that both vaccinated and unvaccinated students will be given their right to an education without condition.”