Substitute teachers being trained to prepare for shortfall caused by vaccine mandate

The Antigua and Barbuda government has become one of the first within the region to implement vaccine mandates, in the fight against the spread of Covid-19. The majority of these mandates will come into effect on October 1.
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By Orville Williams

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The Education Ministry has started training a group of 50 prospective substitute teachers, to compensate for any staffing shortfall caused by the government’s public sector vaccine mandate when schools tentatively reopen for face-to-face instruction on October 4.

Though a large percentage of the country’s educators have reportedly been inoculated, there remains a small number that are unvaccinated and those teachers could very well be prevented from returning to work.

Along with that lack of compliance from an individual standpoint, the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (ABUT) has voted to reject the mandatory vaccination policy and threatened to take industrial action if the policy is not rescinded.

These combined issues could result in a shortfall of teachers come October 4, with this three-day “Pre-Service Teacher Preparation Programme” meant to get the prospective educators up to speed in time to meet the demand as necessary.

According to the ministry, the men and women who make up the group of 50 “have all applied for teaching positions and were interviewed and shortlisted”.

It also advised that “an assessment is currently underway and if necessary, participants of the Teacher Preparation Programme will serve in the first instance as substitute teachers, with the possibility of securing full time employment within the civil service”.

The three-day training programme started yesterday, with Director of Education Clare Browne addressing the group, calling on them to understand the responsibility that they may have on their hands in moulding the nation’s students.

It is being facilitated by technical officers from within the Education Ministry and focuses on topics including ‘The Teacher as a Professional’, ‘The Teacher in Practice – Classroom Management’ and ‘Preparation of the Teacher Technologist’.

The government’s previously published public sector vaccine mandate requires all eligible teachers at the primary and secondary levels — as well as eligible students over the age of 12 — to be vaccinated for Covid-19 before entering the classrooms for face-to-face learning.  

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