Matters Relating to the Physical Reopening of Schools for Fully Vaccinated Students of Forms 4-6 on October 4th, 2021
Physical school reopens for fully vaccinated students of Forms 4-6 on October 4th, 2021. Guidelines for the operations of schools have been circulated to Principals and all other education stakeholders, and teachers of these cohorts are expected to report to their respective schools on October 4th, 2021.
The importance of educating our children cannot be overstated, and the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it drastic changes in the teaching and learning process. The transition has not been easy, but by and large, our teachers and administrators have rallied and risen to the occasion, with the support of our parents and the resilience of our students.
When contemplating major policy decisions in education, such as physical school reopening in the time of the pandemic, the views and recommendations of education stakeholders are deemed critical. In recognition of this fact, the Ministry of Education held seven (7) stakeholder meetings between July 2021 to present. Three (3) meetings were held with TTUTA on 13th July, 2021, 12th August, 2021 and 14th September, 2021; and four (4) with the wider stakeholder body, including associations representing Principals, Denominational Boards, and parents on 12th July, 2021, 16th July, 2021, 13th August, 2021 and 16th September, 2021. TTUTA was also invited to these wider stakeholder meetings, and attended at least 3 of them, by our records.
The document- “Guidelines for Physical School Reopening- October 2021”, released on Thursday, September 23rd, 2021, and its accompanying Circular Memorandum to Principals, reflect not only the recommendations proffered by TTUTA, but by all stakeholders. The Guidelines were also made available to all education professionals, stakeholders, and the general public; and all citizens are encouraged to access and peruse them via the Ministry’s website https://www.moe.gov.tt/ . Factual information in these times of fake news and sensationalism is invaluable.
The Ministry of Education continues to meet with all our valued stakeholders, including TTUTA, on upcoming projects. Our meetings on the optimization of the Ministry’s School Learning Management System, held on 2nd September, 2021 and the most recent one on Learning Loss, held on 23rd September, 2021 were well attended, productive and useful; these planning and discussion sessions will continue.
Term I of Academic Year 2021/22 is fourteen (14) weeks long, with a maximum of seventy (70) teaching days. With eighty-seven (87) ongoing school infrastructural projects (eight hundred and twelve (812) completed since March 2020), and having provided 7,703 laptops to teachers; with 38,365 devices being provided to students, and the ongoing distribution of MiFi devices and laptops; with over 12,294 of our thirteen thousand-odd teachers being trained in online delivery and other areas since March 2020, and with continuous training ongoing, the Ministry of Education remains focused on facilitating the teaching and learning process for all seventy days of this school term, and beyond.
This time of transition back to the physical classroom is expected to be a challenging one; schools will be operating in hybrid mode- juggling both physical and virtual students; this is unprecedented. However, our children in Trinidad and Tobago must join those around the world in getting back to physical school so that they have the best chance of success; and we have to do it as safely as possible.
Even in the throes of the pandemic, 9505 students physically wrote CXC examinations in January 2021; 34,000 students attended school from February to July, 2021 to complete SBAs and practicals. 31, 393 of our students wrote CXC exams again in July, and 19,544 primary school students successfully wrote SEA 2021 and are now progressing their education in Secondary school. We as a country worked together to accomplish these successes, – teachers, students, staff of the Ministry, health professionals, parents, invigilators, administrators, guards, janitorial staff, transport operators, school feeding personnel- and more- all of us working together, in the pandemic. If we did not press forward, in the face of the much advice to the contrary, it would have been to the detriment of our students.
At this time, national vaccination levels are approximately 33%, and the Delta variant has been confirmed to be in community spread. In light of this, and based on global best practices in countries with similar circumstances, the government has made the decision, based on the advice from the Ministry of Health, to allow only fully vaccinated Forms 4-6 students to attend school physically from October 4th 2021, with all safety measures in place as they were in February 2021- masking, social distancing and sanitization. The fact is that these students can be exposed by anyone they interact with- even in their homes- whether vaccinated or unvaccinated.
These fully vaccinated students have the best protection against becoming grievously ill if they are exposed to COVID-19 and are therefore best prepared to attend school at this time.
We thank our teachers, parents, students, Ministry staff and all other Education stakeholders for holding the course in these difficult and uncertain times. The future of Trinidad and Tobago depends on our continued and collaborative effort.
Ministry of Education
622-2181 Ext 1355, 1427