Grant Memorial Presbyterian School

Flashback 2020: A workman power-washes Grant Memorial Presbyterian School on Coffee Street, San Fernando —Photo: TREVOR WATSON

Pupils writing the SEA examination on August 20, will be returning to classes today.

Education Minister Anthony Garcia gave this assurance yesterday.

Garcia also said the severed ­cable was restored at Newtown Girls’ RC School, Port of Spain, and the lighting issue was resolved at Arima Boys’ Government School.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Antonia De Freitas said she “welcomed” the return of children to classes, and that TTUTA would continue to monitor the health and safety of pupils and education practitioners.

De Freitas also said TTUTA will be meeting with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) this week to discuss issues including the social distancing in the aftermath of the August 10 election.

Garcia said the Education Ministry was working in tandem with the Health Minister (Terrence Deyal­singh).

Both Garcia and De ­Freitas ­extended best wishes to the ­children as they prepare for their red letter day.

Primary schools are ready

In a telephone interview yesterday, Garcia said: “All our primary schools are in a state of readiness to accommodate all the Standard Five pupils. I have been liaising with principals to ensure everything is okay.

“We had to deal with Newtown Girls’ RC School, which had an electricial problem on Thursday evening. Members of the ancillary staff were power-washing walls, in keeping with proper sanitising requirements, and a cable was severed.

“It was replaced. The school is back in order. All electrical wires are functioning efficiently.”

Garcia added: “Arima Boys’ Government School had a slight challenge, with respect to lighting. Again, it was rectified.”

Garcia added: “It is not all the pupils who will be out to school. It is the Standard Five pupils.

“We have been meeting with various stakeholders, in particular the Primary Schools Principals Association. We are confident all teachers assigned to the Standard Five classes will be out to school.

“We are working closely with CXC to ensure the exam itself would be conducted without any issues. Invigilators and supervisors will come from primary school teachers, as has been done in the past.

“The teachers and teachers who are coming out will be paid a stipend because we recognise they are working during their school ­vacation,” said Garcia.

Teaching, learning during ­Covid-19 restriction

Garcia also said during the Covid-19 restriction period, the Education Ministry used every opportunity to ensure about 19,000 pupils were able to receive some level of tuition.

“TTT had lessons which were delivered by trained and qualified teachers. It was much appreciated by the pupils.

“In addition, the ministry had developed a platform for teaching and learning, which was accessed by pupils. About 6,000 teachers were uploading learning and teaching materials.”

Garcia also paid kudos to teachers who reached out to pupils who failed to get an Internet connection.

He said: “There were some ­areas (where), because of the lack of Internet connection, some ­pupils were not able to benefit fully.

“Some teachers stepped up to the plate and delivered materials to the students, in some cases to their homes.”

TTUTA to meet with EBC this week

De Freitas said: “TTUTA will not discourage education practitioners from going to school to teach the children. TTUTA’s concern is the health and safety of our pupils and teachers.

“We will be looking at it closely since we feel the exam should have been better placed in October.”

She also appealed to exuberant protesters to refrain from disturbing the children at school.

“We know it is election time, but minimise the noise and disruption for SEA and CSEC pupils.”

Moving to the EBC meeting, she said: “We will be engaging the EBC and monitoring them to continue to chart the way forward. We are due to have a meeting with EBC ­because we expressed concern about the need to prepare the ­facilities for (the) election. We are concerned about the sanitisation and social distancing. EBC can give us the assurance there would be as little disruption as possible to allow the pupils to continue their ­examination.”

Six-foot physical

distancing requirement

In a statement on Saturday, the Ministry of Education said all primary schools were prepared and equipped to welcome back the SEA pupils.

“The ministry has, over the past few weeks, been distributing cleaning supplies to all primary schools to ensure the classrooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitised,” it stated. “Additionally, liquid soap and hand sanitiser are available for the students to utilise.

“Based on Ministry of Health recommendations, principals have reorganised the classrooms to facili­tate the six feet physical distancing requirement.

“The ministry will continue to clean and sanitise schools to ensure the safety of students.”

The ministry added guidelines for the reopening of schools were developed in consultation with the Ministry of Health, and were issued to primary school principals.

A separate document, outlining the measures for the new Early Childhood Care and Education sector, is to be disseminated shortly.

The ministry also assured that it remains in constant dialogue with the Chief Medical Officer and health officials to ensure the protocols continue to be implemented in schools.

Schools are expected to fully reopen to all pupils on September 1.

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