At least 379 students in St. Vincent and the Grenadines tested positive for COVID-19 during term 1, which ran from October to December 2021.
Minister of Education, Curtis King told Parliament that he was unable to give the specific number of cases of the COVID-19 virus that have been reported in schools among students, teachers and other staff.
“We are, indeed, aware that many of our students, teachers and other staff members have contracted the virus,” he said as he responded to a question from opposition MP Terrance Ollivierre on Thursday.
King said the data collation has not yet been completed and that he would provide the information whenever it becomes available.
“What I can report is the information for the number of cases among students in term 1 [which] ran from Oct. 18 to Dec. 16 2021,” he said.
“The figures show that there were 52 preschoolers, 186 primary school students and 141 secondary school students, giving a total of 379 students who are reported to have contracted the virus.”
Ollivierre, in presenting his question, said the context in which schools operate has undergone numerous rapid and drastic changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hence, the ability of teachers, students and staff to be tested and receive timely results is of paramount importance to the success of schools, he said.
Ollivierre asked the education minister to state the policy or procedure for managing ongoing risks, conduct classes safely and meet the needs of students, teachers and staff during the 2021–2022 school year.
He also wanted to know the number of cases of the COVID-19 virus reported in schools among students, teachers and staff.
King said that the Ministry of Education continues to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to ensure the safety and well being of all students, teachers, and other staff members.
“In addition, we follow the guidelines for the safe operation of all schools, as outlined by the NEMO Health Service Subcommittee COVID-19 recommendations.”
These included virtual learning, the wearing of masks, keeping physically distant from their peers, and others, and constantly washing and sanitising hands.
He said that the Ministry of Education provided the necessary resources to support remote learning, including training for teachers to support virtual learning when the physical classroom was closed.
“When schools return to face-to-face classes, the Ministry of Education provided extra cleaning agents, wash stations, extra janitors, and security officers for schools where there were no such officers. Thermometers were also provided for temperature checks to be done at the entrance to the schools.”
King said these measures were taken to increase the safety of stakeholders using the various school plans.
“We continue to provide the resources to meet the needs of our students, teachers and other staff members during the academic year 2021-2022.”
In a follow-up question, Ollivierre asked about the testing protocols in instances where COVID-19 cases were found in schools.
“Was it the whole school or was it just particular classes and how often this was done? “ Ollivierre asked.
King said that over the period there were various protocols in place based on the guidance of health officials.
“But, generally speaking, whenever there was a case identified in a classroom, then at the beginning, those students will generally have been tested — those immediately in contact with the students who are affected,” the education minister said.
“Ultimately, what happened, students were asked to stay home once they came down with the virus. And again, those students within a particular radius of the students with the virus, they were tested.”