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FLASHBACK - Fatima College students leave the Mucurapo Road, Port-of-Spain school’s compound after the first day of the reopening of school on October 4th..

RADHICA DE SILVA

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Principals who are restricting timetabled virtual sessions for unvaccinated students are opening themselves up for lawsuits.

So said the president of The Movement for Concerned Parents Clarence Mendoza after a video circulated showing a teacher telling students there will be no online classes for Forms 4 to 6 starting Monday.

Speaking to Guardian Media, Mendoza said it was morally wrong for children to be denied their education noting that the ministry must give a clear directive on the matter.

“In the United States legal action is being taken against principals and our principals here will receive legal action. Parents are prepared to take principals before the courts,” Mendoza said.

He added, “We see the timetables being shifted every day by principals who have sent out timetables that says as of October 19, they will not continue with online classes. We are paying close attention to this,|” he added.

Asked whether teachers should face disciplinary action if found culpable, Mendoza said, “I don’t think teachers are doing things on their own. The school-based management system set up by the Ministry involves teachers and teachers union. I cannot see a teacher going about this on his or her own. The principals continue to do it and they will be held accountable,” Mendoza said.

He said the ministry must put a memo saying principals cannot do this and the directives should come from the Ministry of Education.

But Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said the ministry has never stopped online teaching.

“Principals have been given the flexibility to devise their individual methods to deliver the curriculum to students who are not attending school physically at this time. This would necessarily vary by school, subject and teacher,” she said.

She added, “The MoE has asked for and received 95 per cent of these School Reopening Plans. At no time has the MoE mandated cessation of teaching to those who are not attending physically. We will look at all reports coming in to determine veracity, and support needed for schools where required.”

On October 7, a letter circulated from the principal of Palo Seco Secondary, former president of TTUTA Davanand Sinanan indicated there will be no timetabled virtual sessions for unvaccinated Forms 4-5 who will be facilitated asynchronously “as far as possible.”

Sinanan said while student attendance has been quite low, these numbers will gradually increase in the coming weeks given the vaccine mandate of the government.

A teacher at Shiva Boys’ Hindu College also told Guardian Media recently that the ministry had stopped online teaching at the school once physical classes resumed but when told this was inaccurate, the teacher said that was what he was told.

A senior school official at Barrackpore said some schools could not facilitate online classes because of poor internet infrastructure. Teachers have been given brand-new laptops to teach online in school. The Ministry has also started rolling out connectivity in schools saying all schools will be given internet in the near future as discussions continue with internet service providers.

Efforts to contact the president of the T&T Unified Teachers Association Antonia Tekah-De Freitas proved futile as calls went unanswered.