With numerous questions still unanswered ahead of the new school year, more parents have been exploring the possibility of homeschooling their children, according to Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw.
And, although she is optimistic about ongoing discussions with stakeholders, it appears there will be no objections to this previously controversial method of instruction if parents are not yet comfortable with sending their children back into the classroom.
In response to numerous concerns about the short timeframe for preparations, Bradshaw has said the ministry would also be lenient on the requirement for students to wear school uniforms.
“We have also looked at homeschooling, because there have been more requests from parents to keep students at home, and we have had a number of students who have done exceptionally well through homeschooling,” said Bradshaw.
“We have indicated that there is a procedure that must be followed. I am not going to deter persons from pursuing that option. I think it is to be encouraged and therefore for persons who are a bit reluctant to send their children to school, there are options available. We recognize that not everyone will be on the same page, but we are willing to accommodate where we possibly can, to ensure that children are able to learn,” she added.
Article 42 of the Education Act indicates that school-aged children may be exempted from compulsory attendance at school if the instruction being received at home is of a standard “satisfactory to the minister.” Such permission must be sought from the permanent secretary and is followed by an interview at the Ministry of Education.
The option had been proposed as recently as June by President of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF) Paul Simba Rock in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Bradshaw also suggested that the ministry would be prepared to consider making several allowances similar to those that worked while schools were closed at the height of the national shutdown, including the requirement to wear uniforms.
She said: “”We were even flexible in things relating to whether children could wear to school their school uniforms because in some cases, children being home put on a bit of weight and I am of the view that what you are wearing will not affect how you learn.
“And therefore we have made accommodations in this environment to allow children to settle down and do what is important, which is to learn. Those accommodations will continue so long as we have the necessary representations on the table and we will find the compromises as best as we can.”
After announcing the September 21st restart, the Government has been taken to task for its failure to provide definitive protocols and for a perceived lack of engagement with key stakeholders.
During Tuesday’s media conference, Bradshaw expressed “extreme confidence” in the process, noting that discussions were ongoing with the Ministry of Health, educators, ancillary staff, and their representative bodies.
Bradshaw acknowledged that learning institutions will not be able to operate at their “ideal” full capacity, and officials are aiming for a “blend” of face-to-face and online learning.nv
“We have seen the evolution of COVID-19 and I think it would be fair to say that if people want to make noise, now is not the time. We are trying to find the best environment for students to be able to learn in, and teachers to be able to teach in safely. It is not going to be perfect, but we are going to try to get as close to perfect as we possibly can,” Bradshaw told reporters. (KS)