The island’s introduction of school monitors last year has been hailed as a major factor leading to these institutions minimising the associated risks of COVID-19.
Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, acknowledged this last evening as she addressed a press conference at Ilaro Court and announced the reopening of schools, the return to face-to-face learning on April 20 and measures to continue minimising risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said: “There was a recent study that was done by UNICEF, which indicated that one of the things that place Barbados head and shoulders above all other Caribbean territories, was the fact that from the early stages of this pandemic, we were able to place safety monitors within our schools and those school monitors, thankfully, were able to assist the teachers in the school environment and the principals in ensuring that our students sanitise their hands, that they kept the physical distancing, and of course that they were wearing their masks, as much as possible.”
According to the Minister, the school monitors, who featured heavily in the first term of the 2020-2021 school year and who proved to be “very effective”, would also be returning to the school environment at all nursery, special needs and primary school institutions from Monday, April 19.
Ms. Bradshaw, who stressed that her Ministry understood the fears and concerns of Barbadians in relation to COVID-19, noted it was for this reason that the vaccination exercise for schools considered not only teachers, principals and administrators, but was also expanded to ancillary staff and safety monitors.
“We have expanded this to every single person who will interact in the school environment with our children, and we have done so, simply because we are focused on minimising risks, and getting this economy and getting this country also back to working again.”
While also reporting that over 1,500 teachers had been vaccinated and another 800 were due for vaccination, the Minister added: “We are pretty much over our halfway point of getting those teachers vaccinated. I believe that over the course of the next few days and certainly next week, we will see a greater uptick in the number of persons vaccinated. There are some who say we shouldn’t go back to school until after the second vaccination, some two weeks after. And I’ve simply responded as follows. I’ve simply said: ‘It is always about minimising our risk’.
“We know that the first dose of this vaccine affords us a certain level of protection. We also know that if we were to catch COVID after the first vaccination, it would not be as severe as if we did not have the vaccination. We also know that when you get the second vaccination, it is supposed to offer you even more protection. It doesn’t guarantee you that you will never get COVID, but what it does is it minimises the risk.”
The Education Minister disclosed that the Ministry had been working closely with the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit to address issues of spacing, to make sure the requisite materials were in place as well as all of the sanitising equipment.
Pointing out that the Unit had also assisted the Ministry with a specially dedicated team by guiding it and the respective institutions through the process, she divulged that arising out of one of the major concerns raised in relation to ‘how long should children be at school?’, the Ministry was able to propose that schools be opened from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.