“We do have an obligation to educate our children whether vaccinated or unvaccinated and we will not segment our society along those lines.”
So says Education Minister Daryll Matthew amidst growing concerns that – with the November 11deadline approaching for the student vaccine mandate – unjabbed students will be left out in the cold.
The rule stipulates that pupils 12 years and older must had at least one dose of a Covid shot by November 11 or risk losing access to face-to-face learning.
Although, according to Matthew, these students will not be allowed back in the physical classroom, his ministry is presently trying to find ways to ensure that they are reached.
“It may be that we have to ensure that a system is in place for remote learning for those children. I know the Ministry of Education is now finalising plans in terms of how we will reach but I can tell you there will be a significant disadvantage because it is clear that all the experts, all the teachers, all the educators agreed that the best place for children to be is in the classroom,” Matthew said.
Matthew’s comments come on the same day that students across the country returned to schools as part of the ‘tier two’ approach to learning which sees students in the class in a rotation system.
Not only is Matthew refuting any accusations raised about the government not ensuring every child is educated but he also reiterated officials’ stance that vaccine mandates are ultimately in place to protect people.
“The government isn’t mandating vaccines to be taken to poison anyone, as has been accused, or to inconvenience anyone or their livelihoods.
“We simply recognise that collectively we have to protect the society. We can’t be debating two years after about Bill Gates and ‘mark of the beast’ and magnet on your shoulder and all sorts of things.
“People are dying and we have an obligation as a responsible government to protect lives and livelihoods,” he declared.
The minister of education also believes there is room to improve students’ access to the internet and devices, warning that the country could see the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the education system in the years to come.
“On the 17th and 18th of this month I think it is, I will be chairing an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting and that is one of the topics that I have asked to be put on the agenda; the growing gap between the haves and the have nots, as it relates to access of education, because it is a problem that is being felt across the entire hemisphere,” Matthew said.
“So, we are not unique in that aspect because we recognise the households who can afford to have each child in the home have a device, whereas the children who are not so fortunate, they are sharing a phone that a single mother has to use and they’re all trying to log on to Google Classroom on her phone and the cost of internet too.
“So as much as the internet providers have worked along with us to provide zero rates for Google Classroom and so on, if you have one Samsung phone that has to be shared between three children, it is still a disadvantageous position that these students are in,” he added.
Almost 6,000 students of the approximately 8,000 eligible for vaccination, according to the education minister, have been vaccinated so far.