The SVG Teachers’ Union President Oswald Robinson is of the view that several members of his trade union “risked their lives” over the course of the 3 day professional development exercise that was recently mandated as the Education Ministry continues to prepare to reopen schools here come April 12.
“The teachers went back to work the three days when the government called them. They risked their lives to go back – some of the classrooms were not properly cleaned and sanitized and teachers went back to prove to them that they are not lazy….
“These talk show hosts on radio beating up on the teachers as if teachers are not working. They have been online working and the Ministry have been monitoring,” Robinson told Asbert News Network in an exclusive interview.
A surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, in some cases, precipitated the prolonged closure of the nation’s schools following the Christmas break last December. On January 15 this year Myccle Burke – Permenant Secretary in the Education Ministry – advised “out of an abundance of caution” that “school will remain closed until further notice.”
Although this notice is still prominently displayed on the Ministry’s website the SVGTU President was able to confirm that government officials “have a date fixed for April 12” to return to face to face instructions. He also said, “the SVG Teachers’ Union has never objected to the reopening of school. As a matter of fact our teachers want to go back to school but our message is clear and straight.
“I’m a little disappointed that the Ministry of Education cannot understand the message of the Teachers’ Union; it is being misinterpreted.
“We have been saying we want the protocols in place, schools must be healthy and they must be safe. You must put the necessary transportation in place and observe the necessary protocols. That’s a clear message. The littlest child in Grade K could understand that. So we are not sending mixed messages.
“When the Teachers’ Union speak about the challenges facing the education sector and when we speak about the lack of a policy in the teaching and when we speak about 90 percent of the children are yet to receive a device from the government.
“And when we speak that you’re putting now, solely, the blame on parents; people are saying that those messages are not clear. It depends on who is speaking. The government is speaking about the same challenges.”
Robinson cited a local TV talk-show on which he claimed to have seen and heard “the Minister of Education… speaking about the same challenges: poor internet access in primary schools, some children still without internet access. They’re telling the children now Digicel or NTRC is offering SIM cards – where would the children put the SIM card if they don’t have a device?
“It depends on who is speaking. To them they are challenges but when we speak about the same challenges they say we’re making excuses. The way how things are going they’re making their decisions and they just come and tell you and you must just swallow everything. That is not how you’re supposed to operate in a democracy.”
Robinson further described as libelous certain public pronouncements that attempts to paint the SVGTU under his stewardship as a band of obstructionists.
“In all of our press statements and conferences we have been saying that we’re ready to continue the education of our nation’s children face to face. But we’ve also been saying: Put the health and safety measures in place because they have never observed social distancing, never observed physical distancing in schools since COVID started….
“They started to take temperatures and then they stopped, a lot of the schools today don’t have a sick bay; where do they expect the principals to put the children if any of them has to be isolated temporarily until the Ministry of Health steps in? And Dengue is still around and they have a lot of garbage bins around the place collecting water. I spoke about it at length and people calling me obstructionist. That is far from the truth!”
Robinson further identified the current status of the Mary Hutchinson Primary School on Union Island amongst a slew of additional examples to show the Education Ministry’s continued state of unpreparedness.
He said, “they need to come clear with the people and build a new primary school for them. You have an increased population and they’re in a resource center. They can’t even admit the Grade K students up to now because they don’t have enough space.
“And you’re telling me you’re going to pay 90 thousand dollars to build temporary classrooms to hold those children. When exactly is that going to be done? You can’t have major construction taking place – it is not safe, it is not healthy – in the same vicinity where the school is in operation. So when are they going to do that?”