By Theresa Goodwin
Talks with key players in the education sector will continue this week to determine the best possible approach to be taken regarding the reopening of schools in September.
The discussions with administrators from public and private primary and secondary schools, Ministry of Education officials, the teachers’ union and the Parent Teachers Association, began a week ago after Information Minister Melford Nicholas hinted that the rise in Covid-19 cases could result in delay in the opening of schools.
Education insiders say the discussions have been progressing smoothly and several recommendations have been placed on the table for consideration. The next round of talks will be held on Tuesday at the Ministry of Education.
The 2020 academic year was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and many of the issues that emerged then, remain unresolved. The issue of face-to-face versus online learning is one of the biggest concerns, as many parents bemoaned the perceived impact of the latter on their children’s development.
Lack of access to devices and internet connectivity are also part of the argument for those parents who would rather have their children in the classroom.
Another, more controversial matter, is that of vaccinations and what stipulations may be put in place for the schools in that regard.
The government has maintained that Covid-19 vaccinations will remain voluntary, but with increasing Covid infections, the threat of the delta variant and the presence of the Pfizer vaccines – that have been approved for use in children – it remains to be seen whether that stance will change.
Meanwhile, a member of the government’s taskforce on vaccination is encouraging parents to ensure that children 12 years older get at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine before the start of the new school year.
Dr Jason Belizaire also suggested that, “consideration should be given to maybe delaying the start of the school year, because once school starts … as much as schools do their best to enforce the protocols, we have to realise that school is a potential super spreader event and children are still children”.
The medical practitioner said he has already registered his 16-year-old son for the vaccine and he’s hoping he can get at least a first shot before September.
The shot is being administered at the Villa Polyclinic and parents are required to pre-register children who are 12 years of age and older.