Education Division to give daily covid19 numbers for Tobago schools

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Signal Hill Secondary students get their temperature checked by security at the school compound. Photo by David Reid

As of Tuesday, a total of 19 students and three teachers have contracted covid19 in Tobago since the full reopening of schools in April.

This was revealed on Friday by THA Division of Education, Research and Technology house officer Dr Dane Joseph.

The division posted a graph on Facebook earlier this week giving a breakdown of the figures and the schools to which the students and teachers are assigned.

It showed Signal Hill Government Primary School had the highest number of confirmed covid19 cases among students – seven. It was followed by Harmon School of the SDA, with three.

Scarborough Secondary School, Pentecostal Light and Life Foundation and Whim Anglican each had two confirmed cases among students, while Goodwood Secondary School, Lambeau Anglican and Belle Garden Anglican, each had one confirmed case.

At Scarborough Secondary, two teachers contracted covid19, while just one was infected at the Pentecostal Light and Life Foundation.

Joseph told Newsday the numbers will be updated on Monday.

“After that, we are hoping to provide daily updates of both the quarantine numbers as well as the number of positive cases for teachers and students,” he said.

Joseph’s confirmation came two days after Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s revelation that 288 covid19 cases were recorded among students and teaching staff across the country’s 243 schools between April 25 and 29.

At the ministry’s virtual news briefing on Wednesday, Deyalsingh said the figures were provided by the Ministry of Education. He promised to provide further statistics as they become available.

On Thursday, TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts called on the Divisions of Education and Health, Wellness and Social Protection to produce a plan to address rising covid19 cases at Tobago schools.

Roberts said while he did not have up-to-date numbers for students and teachers who had been infected with the virus on the island, he had been receiving complaints from teachers about rising covid19 cases at their respective schools.

He said the covid19 protocols in place before the full reopening of schools last month appeared to have fallen flat.

National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) acting president, Tobago region, Joseph Lindow told Newsday on Friday he has not received many complaints from parents about possible covid19 cases in schools.

“All we had was the one issue the other day where a student tested positive, came to school and they had to quarantine the whole class. That was a major issue,” he said.

Lindow believes there are pockets of potential covid19 cases in schools, none of which have been confirmed.

“What is happening is that a child may come to school with a cough or a cold but there was not any test done to say whether they are negative or positive. So, the principal may send the child back home.

“There are some instances where that has happened but not like the one where they had to quarantine the whole class. A child may have a cough and we know there are flu-like symptoms going around. But is not really covid.”

Lindow noted the same issue is occurring in Trinidad.

“It is at a higher level in Trinidad, but it is the same issue, because we had an executive meeting last night (Thursday) and reports from some national officers within their regions are that schools are closed because of possible covid19 infection.

“It is not that the person was tested and the results came back and say this one positive and that one negative.”

He believes data on the number of students who have been infected with covid19 since the reopening of school is hard to come by.

“Apparently they are not prepared to release that kind of information, so we have to go basically with what you hear from parents. But sometimes when you hear a story and it pass through one or two persons, the story changes.

“We don’t want to use that kind of data to put information out there.”

In the meantime, Lindow said while the NPTA Tobago region is satisfied with the response thus far in managing covid19 in schools, “Better could be done with planning and having all stakeholders reading from the same hymn book so that if anything unforeseen props up, we will be able to deal with it.”

He said the new NPTA, which was elected on April 23, is expected to hold its first general council meeting at 5pm on Saturday to discuss covid19 protocols for schools, among other issues.