Pupils of Scarbrough AC school wait on the pavement for the gates of the school at Calder Hall to be opened so they could go through the COVID-19 screening process before the start of the SEA exam on August 20.

The Tobago House of Assembly’s Division of Education Innovation and Energy says 4,000 students across the island will be unable to access online lessons when the “new normal” school term begins tentatively on Monday (September 7).

However, the division has assured that while the majority of teachers will be reaching students via online and other classes conducted via TV and radio platforms, steps are being taken to reach those students who do not have such access.

“For households without electricity and connectivity, teachers are prepared to design, deliver and receive printed learning packages for students,” the division said.

Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) Tobago officer Bradon Roberts confirmed that teachers were a part of this decision.

“I would have been a part of the committee charged with getting ready for the start of the new school term under these unusual circumstances and it was discussed that systems would be put in place for the students who won’t be able to be reached whether it’s due to the lack of internet access or device.”

He said teachers agreed that some effort would be made to have printable material and worksheets available to those students to ensure that they are not left behind. However, he said what is yet to be finalised is the matter of safety for teachers when they do have to go out to their schools for any activity.

“In terms of safety protocols, officials have stated, and it is documented, that the COVID-19 virus is able to survive on surfaces for an extended period of time. And based on how teachers have to interact with these worksheets and printouts during the handing in and exchange of material is yet to be worked out between the principals and the division.”

According to Roberts, the union has advised teachers to be mindful of their safety as they try to assist disadvantaged students and not place themselves and their families at risk.

Meanwhile, the Division of Education Innovation and Energy said efforts are being made to source the 4,000 laptops publicly and privately.