Troy Allen, the head of the Youth Education and Empowerment Programme, is calling for schools to remain closed until the new academic year in September.
During its sitting on Wednesday, March 24, the Cabinetagreed that schools would re-open on April 12, after the Easter holiday.This, however, depends on a decrease invirus infections.
In a letter addressed to Minister of Education Daryll Matthew, Allen asks that schools not be reopened for face-to-face sessions and that remote learning be continued.
Allen gives several reasons for his objections, including that most teachers have received only the first dose of the COVID-10 vaccine and will not have the second shot until June.
He says that, even after receiving the second jab, teacher would not be fully protected until two weeks after. This means that teachers can still spread the virus to students – who will not be vaccinated – and students can infect the teachers.
Allen notes, too, that judging by the number of residents vaccinated, most of the population is still exposed .
Speaking to the protocols deployed in the schools, the agency head says that educators find it tedious to ensure that students adhere to them. “Students are known to socialize despite the seriousness of the pandemic,” he says.
Further, if any student becomes ill as a result of returning to face- to-face learning, the Ministry of Education – and, by extension, the Government – could face severe consequences, Allen says.
Allen, who has been an educator for over 27 years, says there are only five teaching weeks in Term Three. Since one year of solid teaching has been lost, it would not hurt giving up five more weeks, he says.
He recommends that the Government continue to provide tablets to students “who desperately need them, so that they can meaningfully participate in the virtual learning process.”
Virtual learning will become the norm and therefored should be embraced, he says.
Further, speaking to the extended State of Emergency, Allen says sending students back to school in such large numbers would be very irresponsible and defeats the objective of the Government keeping the citizens safe at this time.
Therefore, the educator recommends allowing only those students who will be writing the Grade 6 Assessment, CSEC and CAPE to meet face-to-face, with no more than 15 students at any given time.
He suggests that this adjustment continue until the country reaches herd immunity or there is a significant drop in the number of infections and active cases.