Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Kay McConney, has given the reassurance that her Ministry is working earnestly towards the resumption of face-to-face classes by February 21.
This was the proposed date announced by the Ministry last month, following the delayed reopening due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.
In a statement issued tonight, Minister McConney explained that consultations on the best way forward were continuing with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the teachers’ unions, the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations and other stakeholders.
She further stated that this dialogue has been instrumental in the development of guidelines for a safe school environment. “This roadmap outlines the physical requirements and support systems that are needed for the safest return…. Our intention, in the best interest of our children, is the finalisation of the roadmap with a view to both public and private schools resuming face-to-face classes on February 21.”
The Education Minister added that such discussions would continue next week, noting that a press briefing would be held afterwards to update the country.
Ms. McConney noted that while the Ministry had put contingencies in place, officials were aware of the urgent need for in-person classes given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. She went on to highlight additional negative effects such as mental strain, along with social and economic challenges.
“While the METVT has been evaluating the health risks associated with the resumption of face-to-face school, we are also cognisant of other risks, including, though not limited to, the learning loss due to the inability of some children to self-regulate; the inability of some students to access classes due to lack of devices; lack of internet services; lack of electricity and the challenges associated with lack of supervision and lack of parental support. Among the various risks we must also take into consideration are to parents and guardians who have had to work reduced hours, or in some cases forfeit employment altogether, to support their children or wards at home,” she explained.
Additionally, Minister McConney emphasised that a safe school environment was paramount, as she explained that the high transmission of the virus and the positivity rate hampered the intended return to the classroom last month.
“For instance, between January 1 and 14, there were over 5,000 COVID-positive cases, which represented a 265 per cent increase in cases over that period. With this rate and the high number of persons in home isolation, it was recommended that schools remain closed to reduce risk,” she said.
“Barbados, we know that the road to face-to-face school has been long, with many a winding path, but know that we are closer to the return to face-to-face school than we were before,” the Education Minister concluded.