Press conference by the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training – April 21, 2022. (PMO)

Three major concerns were highlighted by participants of the Ministry of Education’s ‘Perceptions of Education Partners on the Safe Return to School’ survey disseminated before the start of Term II.

This was revealed during a press conference by Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Kay McConney.

Minister McConney, in reporting on the feedback from the survey, noted that 9,103 persons responded to the survey and said, “there were three major concerns that were recurring in the feedback we received. Eighty per cent of the people said we’re ready to go back, but half of that 80 per cent said, but we do have some concerns.  The three top concerns were one, students not following the protocols; two, random tests for teachers and students, and three, access to adequate materials for sanitising,” the Minister disclosed.

Expanding on the feedback Ms McConney said she was happy to report that “Students generally acted responsibly in managing their behaviour when it came to compliance with safety protocols on the school’s premises.” She added that visits to the schools and consultations with persons in the physical school environment showed evidence of this.   

Also in her report on the survey, the Minister disclosed that the government invested in 240 school monitors in the primary schools, and even though a request by some unions was made for monitors in the secondary schools as well, the government was not able to fulfil that request; however, she highlighted that senior students, prefects, head girls and head boys took up the initiative and volunteered to help monitor their peers within the secondary schools.

Speaking on the matter of random testing for students and teachers, the Minister shared that that aspect of the roadmap was not implemented as the Ministry of Health and Wellness did not receive the swabs to facilitate the random testing, adding that the Ministry remains open to reviewing the considerations around random testing.

Concerning access to adequate materials for sanitising, she explained that the government reached out to local and international partners for assistance in this area and was able to augment the supplies government provided.

“In that regard without going into all the details, it was certainly more than 1,500 sanitising stations for nursery, primary and secondary schools that we have received. We have brought in over 250 face shields for our special needs students who cannot wear masks in many cases; and also we have increased the supplies of soaps and sanitisers. Over 11,200 disposable masks were provided [and] 4,992 cloth masks,” Minister McConney reported.

She also disclosed that this week, the Ministry received 8,000 masks from the Pan American Health Organisation and those items would be distributed within the schools when the third term begins.

“Barbados, we have had the ultimate test, the test of an authentic real-life experience to test our capacity to responsibly and safely conduct face-to-face school. We had that experience during term two; ventilation; wearing masks; our sanitising [and] our physical distancing…. These were all part of what worked well, and we ask you as we continue moving into term three to please continue those things we have done well,” the Education Minister urged.

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