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Assessments begin for migrant children for September intake at RC schools

Migrant children are to be assessed prior to their entry into the national primary school system.

Sharon Mangroo, Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) said The University of the West Indies (UWI) has developed an instrument to evaluate the children’s competence in the English language.

“We are in the process of arranging central areas for the parents to bring the children to be tested and we will do this at least over a one-week period,” she told The Catholic News in an interview on July 27.  She added, “For the very young ones, it will be oral and for the older ones, there will be a written component.” In an update The Catholic News was informed on Monday, July 31 that personnel from The UWI began assessing 26 children at one of the identified sites.

After the assessment, the CEBM will submit the names of the children who meet the Ministry’s requirements.  “That is, they must be registered with the Ministry of National Security and those who are now assessed are competent in English enough to start,” Mangroo said.

The names of these children are submitted to the Ministry; the principals of participating schools will subsequently be notified of approvals for intake. The principals will interview the children.  Mangroo said, “They have been taught the local curriculum in ‘Equal Place’, a temporary education intervention managed by the Living Water Community, but the principals will still want to have a little interview to see where they are.”

The CEBM is undertaking to map the available spaces in schools in relation to where the migrants are living. Mangroo explained, “the spaces are in classes so you might have two places in Standard One, three in Standard Two, etc.” Since 2019, several schools were identified as having spaces unused by local children and the principals indicated a willingness to receive migrant children. Through a partnership between the CEBM and UNICEF, these schools have been supported with provision of equipment and supplies, training in the Content Language for Integrated Learning programme by the UWI and in the how to identify and address developmental red flags by the Caribbean Kids and Families Therapy Organization (CKFTO)

She declined disclosing the schools at this time. “What has been happening, migrant parents have been approaching the schools on their own, poor souls, they can’t understand a system where the children are not allowed in the school. They have been approaching the principals. With the announcement that migrants are being allowed into schools, it is not saying there are conditions”.

Mangroo disclosed that there are certain areas where spaces are not available because of the high local demand such as Arima and Caroni. A school also has not been identified in Icacos.

“The minister has agreed that in the first phase, it will be the children we identify so once we do the language assessment, we will give the Ministry the information on the school that has spaces, the children who meet the requirements and they will see about getting the Ministry of National Security clearance”.

Documents required for entry into school have to be sorted out because there may be gaps resulting from the circumstances in which persons fled their country. The child’s immunisation status also has to be in accordance with local requirements. Mangroo said the Health Ministry has been contacted about what will be needed in cases where there is no evidence the child has been immunised. “Those that need vaccinations between the Education Ministry and Ministry of Health, they will arrange a drive to get the children vaccinated,” Mangroo said.

She has heard migrants are fearful of their children being exposed to xenophobia in local schools. “We want to assure them that the principals and teachers are willing to receive the children…these are people who have agreed to do so and have been receiving support to prepare their schools. We haven’t said to them you have spaces in the school, take these children,” she said.

There are principals anticipating benefits of having Spanish-speaking migrant children entering the education system with the transmission of the language and learning about another culture.

Mangroo recalled the government’s policy announced in 2004 and launched in 2005 to have Spanish as the first foreign language (SFFL) in Trinidad and Tobago. Spanish is a compulsory subject in the primary school curriculum.



On June 6, 2019, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a post-Cabinet media briefing said “If the Catholic Church, in its pastoral work, gets involved with trying to educate the (Venezuelan) children who are not going to school, that is acceptable in T&T.” The government welcomed non-governmental organisations and others assisting migrant children to access an education.

“During this period, we identified schools in which there are spaces and where the principals are willing to accept the migrant children,” CEO of the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM), Sharon Mangroo told The Catholic News.

Since Rowley’s statement the CEBM “has been working with the Trinidad and Tobago Education Working Group to facilitate the integration of migrant children”. The stakeholders’ group seeks to identify opportunities for the delivery of education services to migrant children in Trinidad and Tobago.

It is supported by the CEBM, the Living Water Community (LWC), Education Ministry, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The CEBM partnered with UNICEF to provide physical resources —furniture, photocopiers, air-conditioning units, sanitation equipment and materials and bilingual signage to 16 schools.

Training in the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) was accessed by 98 teachers from the schools prepared to receive the migrant children. This approach enables the teaching of content to students in a language other than their native tongue.

More teachers joined and 103 participated in training from The Caribbean Kids and Family Therapy Organization (CKFTO) to recognise and address developmental challenges. The CEBM has been working closely with the LWC whose “Equal Place” programme has been teaching the local curriculum in English to migrant children.