I write this risking anger from many, friends included. I am a parent, like many, with children who have lost a lot of school and very concerned that teaching is not commencing on September 1st 2020. The Ministry of Education’s ineptness to the task of facilitating continued education of our children, 5 months later, reeks of institutional incompetence. And the confrontational stance of TTUTA is reminiscent of our failing parliamentary system wherein any opposition sees its role as only to oppose, drawing power from resistance. But to reasoned onlookers, TTUTA is out of touch with a reality that calls for compromise and cooperation not muscle flexing and subtle threats. We are in a state of leadership paralysis.
This is an incumbent government. The new Minister is credited for immediate response. But, it is a government in its 6th year, a government that has been in place throughout COVID-19, a government that committed to restart schooling on September 1. Yet, on August 28th it informs us, “the Minister of Education has given two (2) weeks for preparation before any teaching can begin” (TTUTA’s Advisory to members). And, that TTUTA goes on to assure its members, “all aspects affecting education professionals will be resolved before any implementation can begin” is further evidence of misconceived priorities.
What of our children’s right to education? Who is looking out for those entering form 5 having lost most of form 4? Will they be expected to cover the full syllabus, SBAs, labs, practicums and sit exams on normal schedule? Maybe parents/students should form a union. This is evocative of the mask. Laypersons and professionals alike, cited countries and statistics to support repeated calls for mandatory masking, but it took an explosion of positive cases for action. And true to form, the opposition voices found things to oppose, when it was a time to say “long overdue.”
5 months, the MOE still not ready, and TTUTA jostling to show “Who is Boss.” To teachers being asked to attend a face a face meeting, TTUTA “disagrees with the option of face to face meetings at this time when community spread is raging among our population…the only option…must be virtual meetings…for the strict adherence to the Public Health Regulations which stipulates no more than five persons gathered at any time.” What, the school’s auditorium not big enough to socially distance 30?
Now mind you, I am not advocating that teachers’ health be compromised. But we have to learn to live with COVID-19. The Cabinet (over 20) met face to face, wearing masks and social distancing. Inside groceries, markets and Pennywise, all of us, including teachers, are is close contact and until August 28th, with unmasked persons. Other professionals are going to work. Doctors, dentists, up in people’s faces. In the private sector, you go to work, work from home (where approved) or no pay. Come on TTUTA, Covid19 is no one’s deliberate doing, tone down the language, stop the flexing. Thankfully, a reasoned response from the head of the Primary Schools Principals Association Lance Mottley last week. And kudos to all the PTAs and principals/teachers working since March to sanitise schools, put online platforms in place and find computers for students.
What has the Ministry of Education been doing? Yes we hoped for face to face schooling but efficient governance dictated a readiness with a plan B. Why wasn’t August used to tie up the knots of this plan B (100 per cent virtual teaching). I am certain teachers would have complied. Moreover, only the former Minister’s party was in the throes of election and neither he nor Ministry’s technocrats were candidates, so fully on the job as lock down had been lifted. From the Health officials, we knew a second wave was coming, just not how bad. And (I repeat), with porous sea borders and illegal Venezuelan pouring in while COVID-19 runs rampage in Venezuela, common sense suggests that our second wave would be bad. This plus wave 2 in mass, but residents abroad still not allowed in. Same government, same Minister of National Security, no solution.
I teach part-time at UWI. Face to face in September was plan A, but things were put in place to go all virtual. It’s a pandemic, we are all learning and responding on the go, and the evidence suggested that we were not going back to the classroom. Since March, we knew 65,000 children without access to computers. Nothing done. But what about internet connectivity? Another 2 weeks of uncertainty. I must be getting old, because I can no longer excuse a lack of proactive fore sighting.