Advocacy Group Questions Return To Physical Classroom, Urges Government To ‘Tread Cautiously’

The content originally appeared on: St. Lucia Times News

Press Release:– In its haste to project a notion of normalcy, the Government of St Lucia has taken a “head dive” into its conviction to implement a partial reopening of the education sector without providing the requisite reassurances to parents, students and teachers.

The Government has announced the partial reopening of schools nationally without any accompanying measures that would bring comfort to nervous parents who are concerned about the exposure of their children to possible contraction of the covid-19 virus.

Notwithstanding the apparent downward trend in infections, the prevalence of the Delta variant in undetermined numbers within the local community is cause for concern and alarm. Unlike the original virus strain, the Delta variant is known to be particularly infectious among younger persons.

In view of this looming threat of the Delta variant, one would have thought that a responsible Government would outline a list of guidelines and procedures that would reassure all concerned, that the necessary measures would be effected to ensure the safety of students in the first instance as well as teachers.

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The following questions scream out for answers:

? What are the protocols to be employed by parents and persons who may have to
interface with the school environment?

? Are the teachers delivering face to face tutorship vaccinated or are they required to
be?

? What are the protocols to be employed within the school environment during the
routine school day and during face to face teaching?

? What are the sanitization measures put in place within the school plant?

? What are the actions to be deployed in the event positive cases are discovered
among teachers, support personnel or students?

? Will students and teachers be allowed to leave and re-enter the school environment
during the school day for example recess periods?

? Are special/dedicated transportation arrangements in place to convey students and
teachers from their homes and back safely?

? Are Drivers transporting school students and teachers required to be vaccinated
and buses subjected to daily sanitization routines?

? Did the Ministry of Education implement “deep cleaning” within the school plant
ahead of the reopening of school?

TAG is amazed that there would be any suggestion for the partial reopening of school without the outline of management measures and the failure of authorities to address unanswered questions.

Further we are dumbfounded and stunned at the silence of the various representative bodies and stakeholder entities like the Teachers Union, St Lucia National Students Council and others whose voices were coincidentally in concert with calls by the opposition at the time opposed to Government’s announced reopening of school, scheduled then for January 11th, 2021.

At that time there were 438 total recorded cases and 119 active cases. There was also no presence on island then of the Delta variant which experts confirm has more than twice the transmissibility rate as compared to the earlier Alpha version of the virus.

It has also been established that young persons are particularly susceptible to the Delta variant.

The Advocacy Group is concerned that the right signals be transmitted to the population at this time and that we do not let our guard down. We note that it was only on August 13th, 2021 that Ministry of Health officials confirmed the introduction of the Delta variant into St Lucia, with three reported cases, one of which was a local.

On September 28th, only one month ago, the Ministry confirmed another nine (9) cases of the Delta variant. This time all nine cases were locals. This definitely points to the fact that the deadly Delta variant is within our communities with the likelihood of community spread. In its September 28th report, the Ministry of Health indicated that an 18 year old was among the new Delta cases.

In view of the above, TAG calls on the Ministry of Education and Government of St Lucia to tread cautiously with the partial reopening of schools. More significantly we call on the relevant authorities to present to the country a package of guidelines and measures that it will employ during the proposed partial reopening.

We think it is critical at this time that we are all provided with reassurance and comfort.
The Ministry of Education is advised to be more forthcoming with much needed crucial information and respond to the many unanswered questions in order to remove the maze of fear, doubt and confusion that surrounds the announced partial reopening of schools on Monday, 25th, October, 2021.

Headline photo: Stock image

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