Education Minister Anthony Garcia saying now is most certainly not the time to be combative when it comes to dealing with the education of the nation’s children during the covid19 crisis.
Garcia made his feelings known in a press release sent on Good Friday in response to the stance taken by the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) not to accede to the ministry’s request for data collection to determine the extent to whioch students had access to learning materials while schools remain closed due to the covid19 pandemic.
This request was contained in a letter from Acting Chief Education Officer Mervyn Sambucharan sent to Principals and teachers of primary and secondary schools dated April 9, Holy Thursday.
In the letter, Sambucharan said this information would assist in enhancing the services that are currently available to the nation’s students who are all at home in adherence with ongoing covid19 national regulations.
Teachers were asked to complete an onloine form about the provisiosn that wee nade for students to access learning materials for the period Monday March 16 to Friday April 3. This form, Sambucharan said, would take about five minutes to complete and the letter provided a link to the forms.
Principals and teachers were asked to complete the online forms at their earliest convenience and that the forms will be available up until April 16.
But TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas responded with a circular also dated April 9, stating the union is aware of Sambucharan’s letter and it is advising all members that such a demand is not only “spurious” but also “unreasonable.”
All schools were closed during the period queried, the TTUTA president pointed out, and added that it must be emphasised that any initiative by teachers in delivery of the curriculum during this time “was purely voluntary” and done in the interest of the students.
She added that there is no requirement for teachers to use their personal devices to teach from home. She said the association is advising members that they are not required to account for work done during the said period and cannot be mandated to so do.
Minister Garcia then sought to step in with his release on Good Friday. The release said that as TT continues to maneuver through the unprecedented experience that has been presented by the pandemic, the ministry has been co-ordinating efforts with many of its key stakeholders to continue to provide access to a quality education to all students.
The release thanked teachers for their dedication to the students by facilitating work from home and added that understanding that not all teachers have been able to effectively facilitate teaching and learning, the office of the Chief Education Officer sought to engage in a data collection exercise.
The release said the ministry established the School Learning Management System (SLMS) which can be accessed at www.learn.moe.gov.tt and gives a wide range of resources for students from ECCE to CAPE and it is hoped that the data collected can also aid in the further development of this resource.
The ministry also noted the “combative position” of TTUTA and encouraged the union to partner with it at this time as both parties’ interests are aligned with the delivery of a quality education to students while supporting all teachers.
Garcia, the release said, urged stakeholders in education to be solution-oriented. “Now is not the time for any of us to be combative. Our country, like many others has been thrust into a state of uncertainty and as we figure out how best we can preserve the access to education for all students, we will need the support of our teachers, principals, parents and all stakeholders in education to achieve this goal.
“I have continued to be impressed by the commitment of the teachers of Trinidad and Tobago to our students and at this time, the Ministry’s goal is to empower teachers and students with resources that will keep education flowing as we do not know when this situation will be resolved. As educators we all know that this situation is not a vacation but a time for us to be creative and innovative in order to reach our students and ensure that our country’s future is preserved,” Garcia said.
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