The Boards of Education for Presbyterian Primary and Secondary Schools are hoping for a meeting soon with the Ministry of Education, to discuss the impact of the current COVID-19 crisis on the education system, and to map a way forward for denominational schools, especially.

In a release issued earlier this week, the Boards of Education express concern that many students in both primary and secondary schools, are unable to take advantage of the online and virtual tutoring being offered by the Education Ministry, thus putting those students at a great disadvantage.

The Boards also observe that the current time period may be perfect for instructing students in Values and Moral Education, as well as engaging them in physical education as well as the sciences.

The following is the full text of the statement by the Boards of Education for Presbyterian Primary and Secondary Schools.

PRESS RELEASE—PRESBYTERIAN SCHOOLS BOARDS

The Presbyterian Secondary and Primary Schools Boards of Education support the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in its timely and continued closure of Schools across the Nation as it seeks to slow the spread of the Pandemic Covid 19 Virus. We believe that this was one meaningful way of protecting one of the more vulnerable sections of our society, our children. The Education Boards also recognize the many efforts of The Ministry of Education and The Ministry of Social Development in attempting to address the Educational and Social needs of our students. We have also encouraged our Teachers through our Principals, to provide enrichment exercises for their charges as well as report on the social needs of our students and their families in these unprecedented times.

In addition, as a key stakeholder in Education we wish to express the following concerns and would like to engage the Ministry of Education, through our recognized association the Association of Denominational Boards (ADB), in meaningful discussion as we seek to assist our children and their families.

1.  Online Education / Curriculum Delivery:

Both our Boards have encouraged our Teachers, through our Administrators, the additional use of various other learning platforms in the delivery of curricula. Many of our schools have also engaged other attendant stakeholders, PTA, Alumni and corporate entities, for example, to assist with the provision of media devices and such to help the less fortunate. However, our research shows a significant portion of the student population are without electronic devices and/or internet access. It also shows that some of those with devices and internet are not accessing the materials provided. Despite our best efforts therefore, when the school term eventually reopens, students in the same class would be at various stages in their learning.

At the Primary School level, we firmly believe that this is the best time to teach Values and Moral Education, to engage students in Physical Education, Dance, Science, Social Studies, Art and Craft and Agri-Science. We suggest that it will be more practical to leave the substantive and concept teaching for when the school term eventually reopens.

At the Secondary School level and in keeping with the timetable of examinations, we are grateful for the delivery of curricula through the internet medium either through the schools’ own development and through the Ministry’s portal. The students in our five High Schools are being provided with appropriate material as necessary during this trying time.

2.  Social Assistance:

The provision of social relief to parents of children on the school feeding program is welcomed. Efforts should be made to ensure these welfare cards reach the respective persons urgently. The lists provided should be used responsibly for distribution without placing our principals in an unfortunate position of prioritizing. Additionally, our administrators have been assisting as much as possible, those students who are in need.

3.  School Plant:

The Physical School plant continues to be a concern as they are currently not in use. Principals and School Supervisors should periodically check the school plant to ensure there are no unforeseen situations. Additionally, thought must be given to deep cleaning and sanitizing of all our schools prior to reopening.

4.  Well-being of teachers and students:

Finally, the Boards spare a thought for all our teachers and students at home with each other for this extended period. We are concerned about abuse (sexual, physical, mental and emotional), depression and other issues which may arise, which ultimately affect the wellbeing of our children. Nevertheless, we are aware that the family time spent together may be rewarding for relationships.

Our Boards are always willing to meet with the Ministry of Education through the ADB to discuss these and other critical issues and lend our support to finding meaningful solutions.

In times when we can be tempted to put our own interests at the forefront of our considerations, our Christian values teach us to seek the interest of others and work together for the safety and security of all.

May God bless our nation, especially our nation’s children and youth!