By Carlena Knight
With the December 1 date approaching for the return to work of unvaccinated public school teachers, the question of what will happen to the almost 100 substitute teachers who were recently deployed has arisen.
During last week’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas said it would be up to the Ministry of Education to determine how exactly they plan to use the substitute teachers — whether to permanently fill positions that were vacant before the mandate, or to keep them for just their intended three-month stint.
But, according to Director of Education Clare Browne, although it is premature to say, an assessment will be made to determine how many of the substitutes could be made permanent.
“I cannot say at this juncture that all 99 of the substitute teachers will be kept, but I can say that some will be kept, or at least we will seek to keep the ones that are really needed to, because as of December 1 the unvaccinated teachers have been given permission to return to work.
“Now, we can’t at this juncture determine all who are going to return. We will hope that all the teachers who are on unpaid leave would return, but it doesn’t follow all will, and so once that time comes, we see needs, we will act in accordance with the needs that we have,” Browne explained.
Although Browne could not give definitive answers at this time, the director did reveal that plans are in the pipeline for the ministry to implement a proper substitute teachers programme.
“One of the things that the ministry needs to work on — and we have started to do some work on it but have to firm it up some more — is having a proper substitute teachers system in place so that when teachers proceed on long leave, or teachers are ill for extended periods and so on, then we have a source where we could tap into and get persons into the classrooms so that students are never without their teachers,” Browne added.
Before unvaccinated teachers return to work next week, they must first present a negative antigen test and then submit to Covid-19 testing every two weeks. Tests will be provided to public sector workers free of charge.