#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – August 9, 2020 — Covid-19 forced school campuses across the Turks and Caicos to be closed since Easter but Government has squandered that five-months and is not ready with an approved plan for Education in the new normal; thousands are disappointed as school is proposed to begin in three weeks.
“For the past couple of months we have been working with them to establish protocols with the best practice methods to getting children back in schools,” said Edwin Astwood, Minister of Health, Agriculture, Sports & Human Services when asked about his partnership with the Education.
It was a reply, bereft of details when school reopening has already been announced for August 31.
Frustrating for families and schools is that despite the sacrifices to follow Emergency Orders and coronavirus health protocols, they are still facing the 2020-2021 academic year with uncertainty.
A two-week Easter break turned into months and months away from traditional learning for thousands of students, their teachers and faculty. It also transformed homes into schools; many parents admittedly were ill-equipped to balance working from home or having no work at all and becoming teacher extraordinaire.
On Friday, during a press conference, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education – who were both present – could offer no plan and no assurances about what learning at school campuses will look like for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The plan was not ready for presentation at the press conference, which was carried live on local TV and social media. The plan has also not been presented to any schools, anywhere across the country – public or private.
There are 42 schools nationwide. The Minister of Education, Karen Malcolm will begin touring and consulting with schools this week. It was said an update will also be given by the Minister within the week.
“We have been doing consultation throughout, but we are doing a wider consultation as to where persons minds are,” said Premier Sharlene Robinson.
“We are aware that people are eager, we are also aware that parents have determined themselves that their children will not be coming into the physical space. Let us be real in Turks and Caicos, we cannot achieve social distancing with the numbers of children we have in classes, so we need to take a unique approach to what we have existing in Turks and Caicos.”
These illustrated uncertainties underscore the dire need for the process of reopening to have long been started.
Regionally, Education Ministers had begun sharing their strategies for a return to school since June.
“The Minister would have presented protocols and a reopening strategy to Cabinet; she will be going out with her team to consult but again we are watching what is happening around the world, this is dynamic. We can plan but things can change. The Minister has already highlighted some of the concerns we have but there will be consultation in this week,” said Premier Sharlene Robinson.
In Jamaica, there is a staggered approach, including a simulation day to test whether ideas on paper will actually work.
In the Cayman Islands, a School Reopening Guidance document has been available online since June 24; it addresses start dates and learning styles for students from preschool age.
School re-openings are delicate in this post-COVID world.
Institutions will have to ensure there is proper physical distancing; increased janitorial services; sufficient handwashing stations; protection especially for those with underlying health conditions; adequate personal protective gear; clear and consistent communication and they must ensure the environments remain conducive to quality learning experiences and healthy social development for all.
Even the most persnickety precautions can be undermined by one COVID-19 infected person.
It therefore seems a high-risk roll of the dice by the Ministries responsible for education, youth, health and sports to have not focused greater attention on a reopening plan, which by now would have been shared with the public and supported by a public information campaign. Very easily, the leading place to contract COVID-19 in the Turks and Caicos Islands could shift from workplaces to school campuses; a lesson even the most astute student would want to avoid.
Polio is back; 65 million missed shots in another COVID fall out
By Dana Malcolm
#USA, August 4, 2022 – For the first time in almost a decade a new case of polio was recorded in the United States. The case which ended in paralysis emphasizes the danger the region faces as vaccination levels drop to 30-year lows.
The World Health Organization warned in early July explained that vaccination in the region of the Americas and the rest of world was dropping rapidly because of various spin off effects precipitated by the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Over 65 million infants missed out on basic vaccines in the last three years thanks to disruptions in routine healthcare, lockdowns and other circumstances. The effects are already being felt as once eradicated disease like measles and polio are once again emerging.
The Pan American Health Organization announced earlier this year the Americas are now facing another measles outbreak after having been declared free of the disease in 2016.
Dr. Jarvis Barbosa, Assistant director of PAHO said vaccination levels are now as low as they were in 1994 for measles and polio and Brazil has had several outbreaks of measles.
In the case of the United States an unvaccinated young adult developed the disease after contact with another individual vaccinated with a live version of the vaccine.
The breakout polio case in the US sent shockwaves across the country because of the severe nature of the disease. Polio is an extremely dangerous disease with no known cure. It causes paralysis in as many as 1 in 200 infected and that paralysis is permanent.
Normally very few school age children would be at risk in the Americas as the vaccine is required to start school but with the gap in vaccinations many more children are now at risk.
Polio was one of the most feared diseases of the 20th century, paralyzing and killing hundreds of thousands, especially children. Thankfully vaccinated individuals are not at risk and as such the WHO is advising that the best way to protect against polio is vaccination.
Photo Caption: Child in Benin takes Polio vaccine, UNSDG
New Rules for Turks & Caicos JPs
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, August 5, 2022 – Rules governing Justices of the Peace in the Turks and Caicos are now significantly stricter after the passing of the amendment to the Magistrates Amendment Bill in July 2022.
Despite the fact that Justices of the Peace are allowed the same powers as a magistrate previously the only requirement for their appointment was the discretion of the Governor and that they be under 65-years-old.
Justices of the peace have always by law been allowed to receive complaints, sign charges and issue warrants for the apprehension of persons charged with criminal offenses. They can also issue search warrants summons and administer oaths.
Considering the potentially unchecked execution of these powers, the attorney general’s chambers lobbied for a change in the system.
“These are very wide powers and there is no framework for the supervision and regulation of the whole of justices of the peace in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
The amendment rectified this and the Chief Justice now has the power to make binding rules and regulations governing the appointment of JPs, a code of conduct disciplinary action and orientation and periodic training for JPs.
In addition, to maintain separation of powers the governor will be stripped of the power to disallow laws made by resident magistrates. That power now belongs to the Chief Justice.
Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, TCI Attorney General maintained that the amendment was short but necessary.
Young People in TCI are having sex, Rapport wants to ensure they’re doing it safe
By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, August 5, 2022 – Young people in the Turks and Caicos are very sexually active and while there are no concrete statistics, the newest members of the Rapport all said “Yes” to the question about whether there is rampant sexual activity.
“As a young person I totally agree that they are having a lot of sex,” Arean Louis said.
This is particularly concerning given wider statistics point to a very young age group which is still contracting HIV/Aids.
“Caribbean statistics are showing that between the ages of 15 and 25 those have the highest amount of HIV rates.”
Young adult members of Rapport TCI all agree that youth in the TCI must be made aware of HIV and other STIs. Arean Louis, Denae Dennie and Arielle Neely spoke to Magnetic Media on their way to the International AIDS Conference.
All three agreed that our young people are having a lot of sex.
“I would say that our young people are having sec the only thing that I would say is I hope that they are letting their partners know their sexual history, their status, and that they’re being safe.” Dennie said.
Louis added, “As we talk about HIV and AIDS in the Turks and Caicos Islands we most definitely need to bring awareness to our young people because there is no set age— kids nowadays just like to experiment.”
He stressed safe sex, using protection and abstinence to maintain sexual health.
“What we aim to do is keep them safe here, we’re tired and we don’t want to see anymore STD and STI new cases in the Turks and Caicos.”
Dennie says she still thinks there is fear surrounding HIV but with education and protection, the world can get to zero new cases and it was something she was looking forward to.
The final member Arielle Neely explained that there were not enough tools and resources to educate youth.
“There are not enough tools or enough record to educate them. Our parents think they’re doing a good job by telling us don’t have sex but telling us don’t have sex isn’t enough. You have to teach us about birth control planned parenthood.”
The three members had high hopes for Rapport and stressed that they need more members to make an effective change on sexual health in the TCI.
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