Education Minister: Some students return to virtual classrooms as school repairs incomplete

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly – ROGER JACOB

SOME 180 projects attempted during the July/August school repair programme were too extensive to complete and will leave students from at least four of these incomplete projects unable to attend school physically next Monday.

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly confirmed the situation in response to questions about the readiness of the new school term, on Friday.

Using three voice notes, she noted that for fiscal 2022/2023, the Ministry of Education (MoE) would have undertaken 737 projects, which comprised 438 primary schools, 236 secondary schools, 50 Early Childhood Care and Education centres (ECCE), eight special schools and five district offices at a total cost of $322,236,252.25.

The categories of works undertaken for the projects, consisted of approximately 15 per cent sewer works, 17 per cent electrical, 19 per cent roof repairs, 23 per cent plumbing, 16 per cent lighting and 10 per cent miscellaneous, which included air conditioning repairs.

The status of these projects as of Friday September 1, Gadsby-Dolly said, were 74 per cent completed and 26 per cent ongoing.

Of the 737 projects undertaken for the fiscal period, the minister said 180 projects were specifically executed in July/August 2023 at a cost of $231 million.

The body of work consisted of four per cent sewer works, 26 per cent electrical, 36 per cent roof repairs, 16 per cet plumbing and 80 per cent miscellaneous, which included air conditioning repair, painting, and landscaping.

“As far as possible, the scope of works undertaken during the vacation period were too extensive to be completed at this time.

“The most critical aspects were completed first and ongoing works have been scheduled during evenings and weekends so as to allow for uninterrupted school operations.”

Unfortunately, in four of the cases, required infrastructure works were not completed for all students to be physically accommodated in the classrooms for 2023.

“In those cases, arrangements for a hybrid mode of teaching and learning have been approved, with examination studies being accommodated physically while other students will be engaged virtually.”

With regard to the integration registered migrant students, she said that is still being worked out between the office of the Attorney General and the Immigration Division.

She explained that, since 2019, the entities involved in the education of migrant children had been the MoE, Catholic Board of Education, Living Waters and, the UNCHR.

“These entities and Education formed a working group and that group is now working towards the integration of registered migrants into the schools.”

The University of the West Indies is also involved at this stage and has been providing testing for students in terms of their readiness.

Gadsby-Dolly said, based on the testing, some 100 students have been identified as ready for integration.

She said the Catholic Board of Education has also trained teachers and the schools where they are attached, have been identified for migrant student integration.

While the final legal arrangements for their admission are being worked out , she said the board and the working group have also been seeking help for assistance with uniforms and books so the students can be registered within the next week.