By Carlena Knight
Director of Education Clare Browne has welcomed the decision made by Cabinet to lift the mandates for unvaccinated students and teachers.
Browne told Observer yesterday that although the substitute teachers did an excellent job, the level of training and years of expertise those unvaccinated teachers who were unable to work hold would be more impactful for children’s education as the students have suffered a serious learning loss for almost two years.
“I am happy to have the students back and I am elated to have the teachers back as well,” Browne said.
“A rookie teacher that is just coming in is no real match for that quality of teacher. I am not suggesting that the substitute teachers did not serve the system well; they have so done and in due course, some will become permanent teachers.
“With the passage of time, they will become expert teachers, master teachers but they have just started and you cannot compare somebody who has just started to a person that has been around for many years,” Browne said.
On October 1, the public sector mandate came into effect and stipulated that all public sector workers would be required to have at least one dose of a Covid vaccine to return to work. Failure to comply beyond that date resulted in unvaccinated workers being left without pay, but last week Cabinet announced the policy would come to an end and that all workers, regardless of their vaccination status, could return to work.
The only condition is that unvaccinated workers must provide a negative antigen test every two weeks.
Browne noted however that although the mandates have been relaxed, the safety of the students and teachers is still paramount.
“In as much as we rejoice, at the same time we are not intending it to be in any way complacent and let our guards down because, yes, we want our students back, but we want to ensure that our learning environment is safe for all that operate within it.
“So, in as much as the unvaccinated teachers are allowed back, then we need to ensure that they are tested so that we can safeguard, we can ensure that the environment, the teaching learning environment is safe,” Browne added.
Yesterday was the first time unvaccinated students were allowed back on school premises since the government prohibited their attendance from November 11.
However, late last week the Cabinet announced the reversal of the controversial decision, which was the focus of a protest last Tuesday.
These unvaccinated students will however also have to present a negative antigen test and submit to Covid-19 testing every two weeks. The tests will be provided to public school students free of charge.