One-week midterm break highlights limitations for parents amid pandemic

Director Clare Browne
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By Elesha George

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A decision to extend the mid-term break has further highlighted how significantly Covid-19 is affecting the household.

The Ministry of Education ordered a one-week mid-term break for both public and private school activities beginning Monday, October 26, to Friday October 30, 2020. The decision was communicated to schools last Friday.

Director of Education, Clare Browne said the extension was well deserved and would allow educators time to rejuvenate from the aggressive and amended work schedules since school reopened on September 7, 2020.

However, some parents consider the advance notice too short and it has once again forced them to consider how they will balance working with caring for their children during that week, since childcare options are limited due to the pandemic.

Most parents took their allotted paid vacation after lockdown in March on the advice of their employers who were also trying to remain economically viable during the months of inactivity.

Some parents believe an entire week off is too much, particularly as the academic year began less than two months ago. In addition, most students have been placed on alternate school days or reduced hours and parents say the children have a lot of catching up to do.

The week of the break has traditionally been a time of heightened activity as a result of Independence celebrations, but Covid-19 protocols have affected the majority of those school-centred activities, such as the National Youth Rally.

On Sunday, the Director of Education told Observer that the ministry stands by its decision, declaring that “everybody needs a break”.

He said the week was chosen because, normally, teaching and learning would have been at a downtime while schools prepared and executed their Independence programmes.

Browne has chided those parents who he said care more about themselves than the teachers.

 “Many of our principals have not had a break because in order for us to have prepared for the opening of schools, principals had to be out there every day during the summer vacation – no break – and so parents are only concerned about themselves,” he reasoned.

The Antigua Barbuda Union of Teachers (ABUT) said in a Facebook post that its team had suggested the extended holiday, after meeting with the Director of Education and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education last Tuesday.

“We are happy that our recommendation was not only considered, but implemented,” the post noted.

Newly installed ABUT President Kimdale Mackellar, however, told Observer that he did not wish to comment further on the recommendation.

Last week, Mackellar told Observer about the concerns of educators during the pandemic, saying that they were burnt out because there was not enough teachers or supporting staff and that they required more security at school plants.

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