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Barataria South Secondary Business Studies student 16-year-old Hailey Pollard does last-minute studies at her home, at King Street , Aranguez, San Juan, yesterday. She will sit her first exam tomorrow.

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As July 20 nears, the date set by the Ministry of Education for Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) students to return to school in preparation for this year’s exam, some stakeholders in the education sector are still concerned about the health and safety of both students and teachers.

The SEA examination will be held on August 20.

In a telephone interview with Lance Mottley, president of the National Primary Schools Principals Association (NAPSPA), he said the association knows the Ministry of Education had been currently distributing sanitising materials as well as installing signage at the various schools in preparation for their reopening.

However, the association was hoping it would all be completed by the July 20 reopening date.

He said another concern was the completion of emergency repairs to several schools before class resumption.

“I know as well that the Ministry would have approved for emergency repairs to be done at schools identified. It may have started. I am not too sure, but I am hoping that that too will be completed by the time school is scheduled to be on Monday,” said Mottley.

He added, “As you would know, if these two ongoing things—the emergency repairs as well as the distribution of the important materials—are not in place for those schools that are so identified, then we are going to have some challenges…we are going to have a serious problem.”

The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association’s (TTUTA) president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas also in a telephone interview shared NAPSPA’S view but also had additional concerns.

Tekah-De Freitas said TTUTA maintained its stance on the health and safety of all educational professionals, including school supervisors and clerical officers apart from teachers and principals who would be on school compounds at their reopening on July 20 and onwards.

“The health and safety of all these education workers and the students are of paramount importance. If we do not have the school properly sanitised, the water tanks properly cleaned and all of the things in place, there would be cause for concern,” Tekah-De Freitas noted.

Additionally, she said TTUTA was monitoring the issue of pick up and drop-offs of students by their respective sources of transportation.

She said some principals were challenged by being able to install materials such as additional wash stations because the funding that was expected from the Ministry was not forthcoming and resulting in principals having to dip into their respective school’s fund which was already limited to source these additional materials.

“So there are concerns about infrastructure and health and safety issues that we are monitoring and we have to see how it goes. We would not be able to pronounce on it just yet. We are still having discussions with teachers and getting feedback from them.”

Tekah-De Freitas said TTUTA was not going to discourage teachers who wished to go out and engage the students, but at the same time, it wanted to ensure the health and safety all persons would be a priority at this time.