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TTUTA President Antonia Tekah-De Freitas.

Anna-Lisa Paul

A meeting between the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) yesterday to discuss the physical reopening of schools for vaccinated students in Forms One to Three did not result in final decisions on how and when this will be done.

TTUTA officials last evening said they had walked away from the meeting without having received any clear or straight-forward answers to questions as to how the ministry intended to address unvaccinated students in Forms Four to Six who are at home and what would become of the unvaccinated students in Forms One to Three – all of whom will be preparing for exams.

The MoE said feedback had been received of the difficulty some schools are experiencing in delivering online to Forms 1-3 and physically to Forms 4-6 students – despite the presence of connectivity infrastructure at the school, or the provision of MiFi devices and laptops to teachers.

The MoE said it is for this reason and after analysis of the physical attendance data for Forms Four to Six students, that “the Government has proposed the reopening of physical school for all vaccinated secondary students of ages 12-18. This would be advantageous to both teachers and students, many of whom have been outside of the classroom for the past nineteen months.”

It noted TTUTA’s position that the return of teachers to the physical classroom should be accompanied by a cessation of virtual or remote teaching, in order to preserve the work-life balance of teachers.

However, in a virtual update, TTUTA President Antonia Tekah-De Freitas said, “I don’t know if that is good enough for us as educators, if that is good enough for us as parents to simply hear that our children’s future hangs in the balance, to simply hear…that we have the promotion of academic inequity through state policy and unfortunately, with no clear plan as to how our students will be treated in the very near future.”

“TTUTA calls for the discontinuation of all face to face classes for all students of Forms Four and Six, except for those students who are required to attend classes to complete the practical component for the high stakes examinations,” Tekah-De Freitas said.

She added, “TTUTA categorically disagrees with the reopening of physical school for Forms One to Three in a manner which will create a higher level of inequity and disproportionate hardship for our students.”

TTUTA’s Tobago representative Bradon Roberts said he was left with a “bitter taste observing the high-handed, insensitive approach adopted with the measures being rolled out now.”

Roberts said teachers were stressed out about the level and quality of education now being delivered to their charges.

“Teachers could not simply turn off their care and adopt a similar insensitive approach towards the children not being catered for in this roll out by the ministry.”

He urged all stakeholders and citizens to join TTUTA in its call for, “equal opportunity and equal education for all as any inequality would result in further burn-out for teachers.”

He said political measures will result in innocent children having to pay the price.

The MoE said further discussions are scheduled with the wider stakeholder body for today, October 14.