Minister of Education St. Clair Jimmy Prince is reassuring parents and other stakeholders that his ministry has taken the steps required to manage the risk associated with the coronavirus pandemic as school reopens.
“Just to say that we are ready for school on Monday, despite what you may be hearing on the street,” the minister told a press conference hosted by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in Kingstown on Friday.
“All the stakeholders, the important stakeholders, teachers, parents, students are all gearing up to get back to school. We realise, as the Ministry of Education, that teaching and learning as a process has to continue,” Prince said.
Classes will resume for all students for the first time since March, when students were sent on vacation one week early because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Since then, Grades 5 and 6 students have returned to class for about one month before the summer break.
Prince said his ministry realises that students are returning to the classroom during “an emergency period”.
“And we have to straddle these two mountains,” he said, referring to the pandemic and the need for students to continue their education.
“How do we do so safely is really our problem. It is the problem we have been trying to solve. So we have been following the protocols,” the education minister said.
Prince said that his ministry has to ensure that the resources necessary to deal with this pandemic and the associated risks are in place.
“We have sent out since three weeks ago cleaning materials, we have employed more people in terms of the sanitary situation, people in the yards of the schools; we have given instructions to students, to parents, to members of the public.
“We have tried to cover all the bases to ensure that when we go to school on Monday, things are in place.
“This is a special period. I keep saying this. It is a special period. Therefore, we need special interventions and special responses. It is not work as usual.
“So, if you are in a situation where the entire world has turned upside down, how do we deal with it? It can’t be that we continue as usual.
“It can’t be that people say that you are not trained to press a button and take a temperature; it can’t be that you are not saying it is not part of your job description. There are so many things that are not part of your job description.”
The minister was responding to the concerns of some teachers, also expressed by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines teachers’ Union that health workers, rather than teachers, should be employed to check and record students’ temperatures when they arrive at school daily.
Prince said he was heartened “that the majority of teachers don’t think this way and the majority of parents don’t think this way.
“And come Monday, teachers will see that it is an easy thing to do. To just press a button and record a temperature and we move on to the main core thing which is teaching and learning.”
The minister said he was happy for the collaboration of all the stakeholders and the central government.
“We have had all the resources we wanted,” he said, adding that Gonsalves had called his Barbadian counterpart, Mia Mottley to help out in getting facemasks for all students in SVG.
“… because we can’t produce as many as we want in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Prince said.
“All of this has been done through the cabinet and the Ministry of Education is very grateful for that. I hope that Monday comes along and it will be seamless. We are going to get some hiccups, of course, we are going to get some people saying some things but the important thing is how do we manage it and I think we are on course to manage it very well.
‘The principals are on board, most parents are on board, most teachers are on board,” the education minister said.
As of Saturday, SVG had recorded 61 cases of COVID-19 with 58 of the patients having recovered and three active cases remaining.
There were no COVID-related deaths, and 3,986 persons have been tested for the viral illness.