By Klysha Best
While the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association, (TTUA), has no figure yet for the number of teachers that have been vaccinated, the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) has a fairly good idea of the status of its teachers.
In fact, Sharon Mangroo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CEBM, has revealed that over 70 per cent of their teachers have been ‘vaxxed’ to date.
Mangroo believes the high number is due to the webinar ‘The Covid-19 Vaccine and your Child’, hosted by the Presentation College, San Fernando August 20.
The webinar was used to educate and inform parents and teachers about the issues surrounding vaccinations. It included a panel of doctors making presentations on the importance of vaccines, as well as answering questions.
The webinar is still available on YouTube via the link https://youtu.be/kNcPPAsboQk?t=414, and their CEBM Facebook page, to which they have been referring teachers and students.
When asked by Catholic News about whether she foresaw a return to physical schools in October, as hoped by the Minister of Education, Mangroo said “As much as we would like to have the primary school children back out, I am not seeing it happening for this term.”
She said although the number of deaths and the number of infections seemed to have steadied, she does not see a return to school until Term 2.
Mangroo said: “I am hopeful that by January, we will be able to have some students in on a hybrid basis.”
“In order to maintain the protocols, we will not be able to have all the children out at any one time in most of our schools.”
Mangroo believes that the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the CEBM have done all that is possible to do, in light of the pandemic and remote learning.
She said, “Hindsight is always 2020, but I think we did what is in our power to do.”
“For the Catholic Board in particular, immediately we recognised that we had to shut down physical schools.
We started to make arrangements for schooling to continue by distance modes and to do that we met with our teachers, we asked them what they needed, we started to provide training and we started to source devices.”
Mangroo added, “More recently, we’ve started to source low-cost connectivity options and we are moving to see if we can get some connectivity sponsored for the families that need it.”
“We’re also looking to find solutions for those people who do not have electivity even, because the online teaching is a bit better than the paper packages and so we are trying to get as many people sponsored as possible.”
Mangroo said, “The teachers under the CEBM have really done yeoman service and they continue to ask for
training to develop their abilities and we will continue to work with them.”
In terms of the mainstream schools, Catholic News chatted with Carlene Hayes, President of the National Primary Schools Principals’ Association (NAPSPA).
She confirmed that although there is no official figure yet for the number of teachers that have been vaccinated thus far from TTUTA, her principals have provided the necessary links from the MoE for vaccines to the teachers. However, it is still left up to the teachers to make their decision to take the vaccine.”
Commenting on the drop in numbers for those children in the 12 to 18 age group who are eligible for and accessing the Pfizer vaccine, Hayes said: “As principals, we can only provide support to parents, but the final decision is theirs whether to give their children the vaccine.”
Hayes, who is also the principal of the Caratal Sacred Heart RC School in Gasparillo, added: “At this point in time, we will continue to take guidance from the experts at the Ministry of Health (MoH) and monitor carefully the daily Covid positive cases and related deaths.”
Should parents just bite the bullet and allow their children to attend schools as people will have to live with this virus? Hayes stated: “We cannot sacrifice the lives of our students and teachers, since we are still living in this pandemic. We must only return to physical school, when we get clearance from the MoH.”
Hayes said if she had the power she “would give the adequate and necessary resources to all primary schools, to ensure they can carry out their Covid-19 protocols. Funding is a key aspect, and that is definitely lacking at this time”. In addition, space in many schools is inadequate therefore the rotation of students is very stressful at this time. Hayes said NAPSPA will continue to lend support to its members, as they continue to live in the Covid-19 pandemic.
This debate about a return to school and vaccinations locally, comes as children have made the return to schools in the United States.
However, their issue of contention is that of mask-wearing and not vaccinations.
The rancorous debate over whether returning students should wear masks in the classroom has moved from school boards to courtrooms.
According to a report on New York Pix11, lawsuits have been filed in at least 14 states, either for or against masks in schools. In some cases, normally rule-enforcing school administrators are finding themselves fighting State leaders in the name of keeping kids safe.
Legal experts say that while State laws normally trump local control, legal arguments from mask proponents have a good chance of coming out on top. But amid protests and even violence over masks around the United States, the court battle is just beginning.