TTUTA tells Education Ministry: No more online teaching if students come back out

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas. –

President of the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Antonia De Freitas has told Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly if the ministry insists on bringing students back out to physical schools, it must do away with online learning.

In a phone interview on Friday, De Freitas said during a meeting with the ministry on Tuesday, TTUTA asked about the ministry’s plans for the return of lower form students to the physical environment.

“The ministry indicated it was taking it one day at a time,” she said.

“We indicated that since they are looking to put students back to school, the emergency measures utilised (during the pandemic) or remote teaching will no longer become applicable. We would want to return to normal terms and conditions for working professionals.”

De Freitas said the union disagrees with the ministry referring to the meeting as a consultation.

“It is something that we have been making the point for many years. A consultation would involve having a conversation and not only hearing perspectives, but also a willingness to compromise and work together and plan on a matter moving forward.

“TTUTA was told what it needs to be told…but the ministry had no plans to proffer for us to discuss.”

In a conference on Wednesday, De Freitas said, “We continue to hear announcements about initiatives and policies without those initiatives and policies first being discussed with the union.”

She said TTUTA received the invitation to meet with the ministry on Saturday last week to discuss the reopening.

“We had present both minsters of education, and we appreciate their taking the time off to meet.”

However, she claimed when asked about plans for physical reopening for forms 1-3 students, they were not given a straight answer.

“As far as the ministry is concerned, the Ministry of Health indicated for vaccinated students to return to school. (They said) it’s one step at a time. Colleagues and parents, I don’t know if that is good enough for us as educators, as parents to simply hear our children’s future hangs in the balance.”

TTUTA has said while its flagship position is that teachers do not go out to the physical classroom. But if the ministry is insisting that they do, it must cease all virtual classes.

De Freitas said TTUTA is calling for the discontinuation of face-to-face classes for all forms 4-6 students for those who are required to attend classes to complete the practical component for high stakes examinations.

“TTUTA also disagrees with the reopening of schools from forms 1-3 in a manner that will create a higher level of inequity for students. That kind of policy is creating frustration and stress for teachers who have already gone above and beyond.”