Ministry in talks with education stakeholders on reopening of schools
(Frome Left) Acting chief education officer Joy Adamson, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw and parliamentary secretary Senator Dr Romel Springer.
The new school term will commence on September 21, however Ministry officials have yet to decide on protocols to be implemented.
Speaking at the Constitution Road headquarters of the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training today, Minister Santia Bradshaw stated that discussions with education stakeholders, unions, and parents were to occur regarding the necessary health and safety measures for students and teachers.
"As we prepare for September and as these Class Four students transition into secondary school, our consultations are continuing with the respective stakeholders in the course of the next few weeks. We would be speaking to our teachers and we will be engaging with parents as well. We have already started discussions with the respective unions and at the core of all of this has had to be and will continue to be in consultation," she remarked.
"The Ministry on its own can only set the framework but the person who has to work within the system are really the ones who have to ensure that the teaching and learning environment is conducive for them as well. It is important that over the next few days and weeks that that consultation continues," Bradshaw added.
The Minister of Education said she was confident that stakeholders will reach "a common ground" as it relates to the reopening of the schools in September.
Bradshaw revealed that Government will follow the mandated framework policy for the reopening of schools by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and UNICEF. She hinted that a "blended approach" of online and face-to-face classes might be implemented for the new school year.
"You may have a situation where there may be a blended approach to learning. Some classes might have to take place online still, some classes will have to take place at home. We know we can’t have full capacity. That is the ideal situation but we know we may not be able to have full capacity because of physical distancing. . . . There are some issues that we have to work around as to how we get back into school but I am confident that by sitting down as we did before with all the stakeholders that we can come to a common understanding."
Bradshaw contended that it will be difficult to maintain physical distancing and follow the required safety protocols with a school of 600 to over 1000 students. She suggested that some classes could be conducted online instead of face to face.
"Apart from training our ancillary staff or retaining them, we are mindful that you can't have the full complement of students in a school using a bathroom at the same time it is going to create some problems. . . .
"We have to have general guidelines but we also have to work with the schools, teachers, and principals to find solutions for the schools that work for them as well. I think this is a perfect opportunity to make some changes that we long and coming but COVID-19 has presented the perfect opportunity for weeding out the things that aren't working and try to put in things that perhaps might work a little bit working," the Minister of Education maintained.
She disclosed that that Government will be receiving 20,000 devices from the Kenyan Government to be implemented across the educational system. Additionally, 9,000 tablets previously received from the Chinese Government are to deployed into the primary school level and another 4,000 from private entities were to come to Barbados by September.