Chief Education Officer, Elizabeth Walker, right, and Shanika John, health promotion officer, at Friday’s press conference. (iWN photo)

The Ministry of Education will provide psychosocial support for students and teachers as school reopens on Monday amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Education officer, Elisabeth Walker told a press conference in Kingstown, on Friday, that the ministry has been in consultation with principals and teachers in the various schools.

“We are aware that some schools are larger than others and I know there are always concerns with schools like the Kingstown Preparatory School and the CW Prescod School, the Girls’ High School, the Grammar School.

“So what we have done is to touch base directly with the team at the school; in some cases, they actually came into the Ministry of Education. We sat with them, gave suggestions; they raised concerns and questions, which were addressed and they would have gone back to their schools to ensure that they are implanted to ensure that the students are safe.

“We feel comfortable that the teachers, stakeholders are on board with us and parents, teachers are ready to go back to school so students can start the process of learning, which must continue regardless of the environment in which we are. We have to ensure that our students learn; they are engaged in teaching and learning.”

The ministry has elaborated protocols aimed at preventing the spread of the viral illness in schools, even as the wearing of masks is not mandatory during lessons.

Instead, it is highly recommended that students wear masks while commuting to their schools, where their temperature will be checked and they would only be allowed to take their lessons if their temperatures are normal.

Walker said that the ministry has been in dialogue with the principals “because it is not only the academic which is important.

“The psychosocial support for students, this is also important and we have different levels of engagement at the level of the school,” she said.

“At the school, we have the counsellors, at the level of the Ministry of Education; we have the Curriculum Development Unit. There is also the students support services; all of these entities were activated in response to supporting the fears and anxieties that students will have, parents would have, teachers will have.”

Walker said that the Student Support Services is also engaging parents in that regard and a hotline has been established.

The ministry is in discussion with UNICEF regarding the “Return to Happiness Programme” and is establishing workshops that will provide support to teachers, who can, in turn, provide that support to the parents and the students in the classroom.

Walker said that her ministry is finalising staffing, adding that in most cases, schools are adequately staffed.

“We would have had one or two challenges where persons have given short notice in terms of resignation, persons who are going off to study, so we’re looking at those so that we can provide the necessary provision for the schools to ensure that all classes are covered, all the subject areas, so that come Monday we can staff in full force to deliver the curriculum to our students,” the chief education officer said.

She said that the distribution of furniture was still taking place and there would be adequate furniture when schools return on Monday.