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Education Minister Dr. Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

KEVON [email protected] some students may stay away from face-to-face classes, fearing transmissions of COVID-19, Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly says schools are not obligated to provide online teaching now that physical schools reopen.Gadsby-Dolly admitted that managing online and face-to-face classes was difficult for teachers under the previous system, which allowed only vaccinated students of forms four-six into school.Last week, the Unified Teachers Association told teachers to stop online classes if students were back out. It was a factor that led the Ministry to welcome students back, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status.“So at this time, if students are home and rostered to be at school, then that school has no obligation at this point to provide synchronous teaching for students who are not there. But online classes do still exist at schools, because as I mention, schools are still in rotation, especially when you have large classes,” Gadsby-Dolly said on CNC3’s The Morning Brew yesterday.Online classes remain for forms one-three. Gadsby-Dolly said the government’s position remains that the safest students in schools were those who took COVID-19 vaccines. For that reason, it was the first cohort of students brought out, especially as some have examinations next year and School Based-Assessments to submit. She said that when the Ministry looked at CXC results and the student attendance, especially in government secondary schools, it noted a slight decrease in performance.“In addition to that, we note that we have quite a few students who are not coming out to school and what that is actually doing is causing the schools to not be able, in some cases, to run the practicals for the very reason that we would have wanted the students to come out. That was not happening in many cases because of the low attendance.”Looking at student vaccinations, Gadsby-Dolly said it started well, but acceptance dwindled. The Ministry realised that students who needed physical attendance were not benefiting as most of the student population was unvaccinated. Trends did not suggest that vaccination was moving quickly, which would soon lead to a crisis. Education stakeholders also told Ministry that this would cause a problem with upcoming examinations.The government then decided that if parents were saying no to vaccinating their children, it would allow all students to return to school to ensure that they could complete the requirements of their upcoming examinations. As per the protocols implemented last February, students must wear masks, social distance and wash hands before entering schools. Health personnel will use the attendance register to track students in case of an outbreak. Schools must also have a quarantine area to isolate students who exhibit flu-like symptoms.“Based on the social distancing, there are quite a number of schools that would be in rotation, so it is not the entire form four-six cohort that will be out on any particular day.”In terms of compliance, Gadsby-Dolly said teachers would monitor classrooms. In some schools, safety officers and security guards will ensure adherence. She said the Ministry also asked parents to stress the importance of the protocols to their children and requested that schools use their Public Address Systems to remind students. She said students must also take personal responsibility as they have to live in this current setting.Asked about the School Nutrition Programme, Gadsby-Dolly said it started a few weeks ago when vaccinated students returned. As for school transportation, she said the Ministry would ask schools for attendance data this week to determine if it will approach the Public Transport Service Corporation to re-implement the service. The Ministry hopes to bring forms one-three in January, depending on T&T’s epidemiological situation. The Ministry distributed 20,000 learning devices, and the private sector donated over 20,000 to schools. It is now giving out MIFI devices to schools for teachers and students based on a means test done last February. Gadsby-Dolly said some students did not complete the test as they already had devices. She said the Ministry also noticed deliberate destruction of tablets. “Whether through the private sector or the government, we are seeing that some students, they are coming back in, and we are seeing deliberate attempts to destroy devices, especially the tablet devices because now the students want the laptops now.”She said the Ministry intends to reissue the means test this week, so those who missed it earlier this year, those who need a replacement or did not get a chance.