Education Minister: No mask mandate in schools…yet

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly –

EDUCATION Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said the health protocols guided by the Ministry of Health (MoH) will remain in effect at schools, given the increase in hospitalisation and covid19 deaths since December.

This, however, will not translate to mask-wearing.

In a WhatsApp message response to the protocols instituted by Tobago to prevent any future outbreak at schools on the island, Gadsby-Dolly said, “The MoE has consistently promoted health protocols in schools, in line with the guidance of the MoH. That never stopped.”

She said no significant increases have been reported.

Martin Lum Kin, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) said it would be guided by the directives of the MoE.

He said, “We have been advocating washing hands or hand-sanitising along with mask-wearing.”

While Government has taken no decision to implement covid protocols, individual schools and religious bodies have taken precautions.

Presbyterian Primary School Board of Education chairman Vickram Ramlal told the Newsday while no increase in flu-like symptoms or illness has been reported, it is taking every precaution to ensure it remains this way.

“We have not sent out any memos to our schools, but principals have continued to maintain the sanitising of hands post-covid. Also, children with flu-like symptoms have been advised to stay away from school.”

He said some students and teachers have opted to wear masks since Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced the increase in covid cases and associated deaths since December.

“However, mask-wearing remains an option for now.”

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, the ASJA, Anglican, and RC school boards have also asked their members to follow similar protocols.

Bishop Anstey High School East (BATCE) and Trinity College East have issued a memo to parents, informing them of a resurfacing of the covid19 virus, along with the seasonal influenza.

BATCE said it shares parents’ concerns about the spread of the virus, and the school has asked parents to keep their sons or daughters at home if they display any of the symptoms.

Students have been told to wash their hands on entry to the school, sanitise regularly, maintain a safe distance while interacting with teachers and peers, desist from hugging or holding hands, and seek medical attention if the symptoms persist.

Ramlal said while the denominational board wants to maintain certain protocols at the denominational primary schools, “We are awaiting our direct funding from the MoE so we can purchase the necessary detergents, sanitisers, soaps needed.

“None of the denominational primary schools have received funding for almost one and a half years. Funding is crucial at this time to purchase cleaning material.”

He also noted that while social distancing is being advised, the shortage of furniture at the primary schools makes this an impossible task.

“Schools must make do with whatever furniture they have. Desks that were designed for two must now fit three and more students. This makes it extremely difficult for children to practice social distancing,” Ramlal said.