If teachers are to adhere to the suggestion of Education Minister Anthony Garcia to use the school compound to meet with students to assist them with their School-Based Assessments (SBA), then proper sanitation and cleaning of schools must be done.

So said Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas as she reiterated the association’s position against the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations being held next month.

TTUTA is calling for the exams to be held after schools reopen in September to allow teachers enough time to engage with students and for the students to complete their SBAs and Internal Assessments (IA).

TTUTA held its general council meeting on Monday, and according to Tekah-De Freitas: “The union has agreed that we are maintaining that position. We do not feel that it is in the best interest of all the children to rush to do the CSEC examinations and the CAPE examinations in July. There are SBAs to be completed.

“There are internal assessments at the CAPE level to be completed. Some of these take time and it is not an excuse, teachers and students were not delinquent. In some instances, it is simply because the type of activity was time-consuming and because of the closure time did not permit.”

Responding on Garcia’s request for teachers to assist students with their SBAs, she said teachers have been doing that all the time. The minister encouraged teachers to use the school compound for “face-to-face” meetings between June 7 – 30, but with no more than five people at a time.

She said: “If the minister is saying schools are ready to receive students and be repopulated, TTUTA would expect the Ministry of Education to liaise with the Ministry to Health to ensure proper sanitation is done.”

Noting that schools have been closed for two months, she said proper maintenance and sanitation must first be done.

Reinforcing TTUTA’s position that the exams should be pushed back, she said, after teachers submit marks by the June 30 deadline they will be left with less than three weeks to prepare “truly engage the students to prepare them for exams which start on July 13.

“This is without having the students receive that kind of psychosocial support that we have been calling for, because we don’t know the circumstances under which students would have operated over the last couple of weeks,” Tekah-De Freitas added.

Deeming the decision to hold examinations in July as unfortunate, she said: “At the end of the day teachers continue to do what they can to support the students but we anticipate that there will be challenges that students face. Additionally, in terms of the SEA, TUTTA holds to that position as well, that we believe the children need time again to receive counselling and support and therefore we will not want to rush the children into doing the sea at this time.”

Tekah-De Freitas added that TTUTA will continue to voice its concerns about the “inequity which is foisted upon our nation’s children” and parents, teachers, and students will do what they have to do when necessary.