Ministry, TTUTA discuss physical reopening for forms 1-3 students

Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. Photo by Sureash Cholai – SUREASH CHOLAI

The Ministry of Education and the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) have met to discuss the physical reopening of schools for vaccinated students in forms 1-3.

In a statement on Wednesday, the ministry said the meeting with its minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, minister in the ministry Lisa Morris-Julian, other officials and TTUTA happened on Tuesday.

“The ministry advanced that feedback has been received of the difficulty some schools are experiencing in delivery online to forms 1-3, and physically to forms 4-6 students despite the presence of connectivity infrastructure at the school, or the provision of MiFi devices and laptops to teachers.”

The ministry said, for this reason – and after analysis of the physical attendance data for forms 4-6 students – the government has proposed the reopening of physical school for all vaccinated secondary students aged 12-18.

“This would be advantageous to both teachers and students, many of whom have been outside of the classroom for the past 19 months.

“At this time, based on the guidance from the Ministry of Health, the safest cohort of students for physical attendance at schools are the vaccinated. Hence the approach taken by the government on the physical attendance.”

It said the issues raised by TTUTA included concerns about social distancing, physical infrastructure, and the teaching of unvaccinated students. It said TTUTA also raised teacher burnout and cited incidences of teachers attempting to simultaneously teach online and physical classes, against TTUTA’s guidance.

“TTUTA has advanced that the return of teachers to the physical classroom should be accompanied by a cessation of virtual or remote teaching to preserve the work-life balance of teachers.

“Additionally, TTUTA informed of the need for discussions with Chief Personnel Officer regarding the terms and conditions of teachers expected to provide remote or online teaching for students who are not attending school physically at this time.”

The statement said the ministry will engage with the wider stakeholder body on Thursday.