Stakeholders in the education sector are awaiting instructions from the Ministry of Education on whether masks will remain mandatory in schools. But at least one union and the island’s parent-teacher association are open to the mandate being lifted.
The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), and the Barbados National Parent-Teacher Association (BNPTA) told Barbados TODAY the Ministry has not sent any correspondence on when the stakeholder meeting to discuss the matter would be convened.
On September 23, mask-wearing became optional except in schools, on public transportation, and in facilities such as hospitals, dental offices, clinics, nursing homes, and daycare institutions.
Following that announcement, the Ministry of Education said it would review the mandate in two weeks and get back to the public on the way forward.
“We were supposed to have a meeting after the first two weeks of school to review what transpired and we haven’t had that meeting yet and I am not sure if we will have it next week,” BSTU president Mary Redman said.
“I know the teachers feel much safer with the mask mandate in place. Whether they want to remove the mask anytime soon is a question that would have to be put to them.
“It is not to say that COVID-19 is not here, it is still very much here . . . . In classrooms, you have large numbers of children in a confined space and often in poorly ventilated rooms, so the masks and sanitisation do offer a certain level of protection and security,” she added.
Meanwhile, BUT president Rudy Lovell said his members will follow the lead of health and education officials.
“If the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education suggest to us that we have to wear masks in schools, we will do that; if they come tomorrow and decide that the mask mandate has been abandoned, then we will stop wearing masks,” he said.
General secretary of the BNPTA Nicole Brathwaite said parents wanted the mandate to be discontinued.
“When the mask mandate was dropped, several parents called for the mask mandate to be removed in schools so we just await instructions from the Ministry,” she said.
Efforts to reach Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw were unsuccessful.