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Flashback 2019: Secretary of Secretary of Education, Innovation on Energy Kelvin Charles addresses Pentecostal Light and Life Secondary School students at their assembly for the start of the new school year.

“Teachers are being placed under immense pressure in a system designed to fail.”

This was the complaint from a female teacher who contacted Tobago Today seeking to express how she felt about the Ministry of Education’s new virtual teaching/learning platforms.

The teacher, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, said the system is “not practical nor well thought out and is designed to see thousands of students left out of the education system and teachers being wrongfully blamed for the fallout.”

“We are being asked to teach a class by monitoring an online system, while we too have to supervise our children who will be engaged in Zoom classes,” the teacher said.

She said teachers lacked the necessary equipment to conduct the sessions.

“Again, we are parents too. If we have a personal laptop or tablet we have kids who will need to utilise these devices to access their online classes.

“As I speak, one of my children needs a new pair of glasses, am I to sacrifice my child’s vision?” she asked.

And while the Government has asked teachers to prepare printed learning material for the students who do not have electronic devices, the teacher lamented that it required them to go to their schools to print the material. However, she said at her school, the printer is not working.

“Will the ministry replace that printer before Monday?” she asked.

Another secondary schoolteacher, who also does not want to be named, said parents are usually asked to provide printing paper but because of COVID-19 that is no longer happening.

She claimed that teachers had already been “dipping in their pockets” for years to ensure students learn and asked who will now meet the additional costs associated with the online platform.

She added that teachers are being asked to prepare lesson plans and worksheets for students without devices.

“That requires two separate lessons, as it encompasses two separate approaches, as teachers now have to cater for students on a different medium and cater for delayed responses and delivery times,” she said.

Asked if the concerns were raised with the Education Division’s authorities, one teacher said Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association had indeed raised concerns with the division.

Both teachers stressed that they remain committed to educating the island’s children.

Tobago House of Assembly Secretary of Education, Innovation on Energy Kelvin Charles chaired this week’s post-Executive Council media briefing and addressed several of the issues raised by the island’s teachers.

He said the THA’s Executive Council had approved $7.825 million to purchase digital devices for students and teachers who need them.

He also appealed to the business community, as well as NGOs and CBOs, to donate devices to students in their respective communities.

He said the division had put systems in place until the devices are received.

“Schools are open for teachers who may not have a teaching space at home. Resources at schools are also available to teachers,” Charles said.

According to Charles, 701 teachers benefited from three sets of online training programmes and 350 parents have been sensitised on the expectations during online/remote learning.

He said conversations had been held with internet service providers to ensure good service and television presentations will continue on Tobago Channel 5, TTT and Channel 4 on DigiPlay.