Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly Minister of Education

After appealing to corporate T&T to step up and help provide devices for those students who are without, Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly yesterday revealed there have been, “at least eight outreaches since Friday asking to help.”

She applauded the generous overtures as she said the responses have been positive.

With teaching and learning activities due to begin on September 7, the minister also confirmed she will again meet with the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) this week.

TTUTA last week said it was seeking a meeting with Gadsby-Dolly to discuss outstanding issues.

This Ministry issued an 11-page document to all educators on Friday, titled “Ministry of Education Curriculum Implementation Operational Guidelines.”

Outlining the terms for implementation at both the primary and secondary school levels as it related to the curriculum coverage and operations for Term I in the new academic year 2020/2021––the ministry said while, “students are not expected to report to schools for classes during Term I 2020/21 unless further advised,” teachers are expected to take responsibility for delivery of the curriculum to students via remote methods using hybrid (blended) learning options.

Responding to concerns that arose from the document, TTUTA President Antonia Tekah-De Freitas yesterday acknowledged, “There are some issues that have arisen out of the proposal which are sound, but there are some issues which have arisen that will impact on the terms and conditions of teachers.”

Schools were closed on March 16, after T&T recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 12.

The Ministry met with stakeholders in a fact-finding mission last week. Tekah-De Freitas said that following the prime minister’s call on Saturday for people to continue to curtail their movements and interactions for the next 14 days, TTUTA is advocating that persons not go on to school compounds.

She said any planning and engagement activities would have to take place virtually.

Referring to the 65,000 estimated students who continue to be without online access, she said this may only reflect those at the primary and secondary levels.

She indicated that the final figure might be much higher as there were 225,000 students registered across the ECCE, Primary and Secondary levels and said the challenge remains reaching those without devices and connectivity.

She said questions had also arisen as to how the provision of printed material was to be done and who would be absorbing the associated costs.

Responding to that immediately, Gadsby-Dolly assured, “Schools will be resourced.”

She added that donations to schools were also welcomed in this regard. Pressed to say how the suggested timetables by the ministry could impact working parents and also hamper the required amount of online supervision needed for the virtual classes, Tekah-De Freitas said, “While we cannot overlook how much more important the role of the parents are now, we can’t forget that educators are also parents themselves.”

She said further discussion is needed on teachers using laptops/tablets to conduct classes to conduct live virtually classes with children.

Gadsby-Dolly, however, said for those teachers who do not have access to devices, “Schools were asked to submit the numbers of devices that were needed by teachers. The MOE supplied devices to those who indicated the need.”

She said, “If further devices are required, principals can pass the information to School Supervisors so that they can be supplied”

Tekah-De Freitas revealed TTUTA intended to speak with their employer who is the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) about the timetabling, time management, and scheduling of interaction and engagement with students and parents online––as “you can’t have screen time for an entire day.”