After a week of dialogue on the proposed resumption of school, teachers appear satisfied with a slew of protocols implemented to prevent the spread of Covid-19 as they return to the classroom.
There is, however, one lingering concern that President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union Mary Redman is hoping to see addressed. That is, the establishment of Safety and Health Committees as mandated by section 103 of the Safety and Health Act.
This, she said is particularly important for enforcement of the protocols necessary to maintain a safe environment for students and teachers amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Everything is in place. The only problem that we have is that not all schools have put their safety and health committees in place and that was supposed to have been done years ago,” Redman told Barbados TODAY.
The act, which was drafted in 2004 and proclaimed in 2012 stipulates that every workplace with more than 25 employees ought to establish a safety and health committee. However, some learning institutions have been lax in their approach.
A team from the education ministry is reportedly working to fast-track the establishment of these committees over the weekend and intends to meet with them as early as next Wednesday.
According to the BSTU president, the committees will be extremely important as officials discuss the possibility of a full re-opening at the start of the next school year.
“If we are working towards a full face-to-face reopening, it will require very serious planning and organisation… because the current environment is very new and if we are to maintain healthy, safe working and learning environments, then the role of these committees becomes even more important.
“The ministry is aware of this and my communication with the Chief [Education Officer] this morning indicates that where they are not in place, one of the officers in the ministry will make sure that this is done because the ministry is actually planning a training session with the health and safety committee with the schools next week,” Redman noted
“But in relation to the protocols thus far, they have been generally what we agreed to at the meetings that we held with the ministry of education,” the union president added.
The new protocols rolled out this week to address next week’s re-opening include the mandatory wearing of masks, temperature checks and maintaining six-feet distances between students.
While most secondary schools are scheduled to re-open on Monday to accommodate CXC students, classes for primary school students in class four restart on June 15.
General Secretary of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), Herbert Gittens meanwhile reported that numerous meetings involving officials from the ministry and the unions provided ample space for the protocols to be ventilated and issues to be ironed out.
He therefore concluded that individual school boards would be better-placed to address outstanding challenges that might relate to the specific conditions existing at each institution.
“Different schools will have to organise differently and a lot of that is left up to the principals of the various schools to ensure that they put the necessary things in place to ensure the proper health and safety of everybody on the compound using the protocols as a general guide,” Herbert suggested.
“[On Friday] at 2 o’ clock there was a meeting for class four teachers and the ministry to allow them to ask questions relating to the opening. There was also a meeting with the principals and we asked all of the questions about things that were not clear to us. I cannot tell you that everybody is 100 per cent comfortable, but a forum has been made available to have things clarified,” he added.
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