By Theresa Goodwin
Education officials say the delayed reopening of schools by a week is to facilitate the vaccination of children 12-years and older, and teachers who are not yet vaccinated to be provided with the protection against the Covid-19 virus.
Education Minister Daryll Matthew said that given the rapid rise in the number of coronavirus infections in the country, and the addition of more vaccine options, one of which can be administered to children, it was felt that additional time should be given for more people to be inoculated to ensure a safer school environment.
Over a week ago, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Teri-Ann Joseph, pointed out that more and more youngsters are being affected by the virus. She shared that seven children, aged from babies to 11 years old, were diagnosed with the virus in 2020, and since the start of this year, 67 youngsters under 11 have tested positive – with the youngest just 11 days old.
“We all have a responsibility and an obligation to protect our children to the best of our ability. Given that we have approximately 6,000 students between the ages of 12 and 18 in our school system, we should use this week as an opportunity to get as many of those students vaccinated with the Pfizer shot, and our teachers as well,” Matthew said over the weekend.
Director of Education Clare Browne, who was a part of the same radio programme, stated that about 65 percent of those who are employed in the education sector are fully vaccinated, and they are appealing for others to get the jab.
“This is not a time to be selfish, I understand people have their own views about some things, but we have to think beyond self, and we have to think about the children and young people of our nation. Parents as well must choose wisely for their children,” the director said.
The country’s active Covid-19 case count continues to rise with the most recent dashboard from the Ministry of Health revealing 62 new cases, pushing the number of active cases to 321.
Meanwhile, the director of education explained that school heads are required to present their plans and proposals for remote learning shortly as consultations continue with all players in the sector.
“No two learning environments are the same. Each school would have had that opportunity to feed into the Ministry of Education their instructional plans for the reopening of school, and by September 10, each school, public and private, will submit a clear plan for remote learning,” Browne said.
He also said that three tiers have been established for the operation of schools when they reopen on September 13th.
“Tier 1, more people on the school plant physically distanced of course. Tier 2, if the Covid numbers suggest we need to make further adjustments then students will be coming to school at some point within the teaching cycle, Tier 3, the red tier, which we hope it does not get to that place, will be full remote learning,” the education boss said.
The ministry is yet to announce which of these tiers schools will use to reopen in the weeks to come.