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No School Reopening Plan Ready from TCI Ministry of Education

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Run-down playground at Enid Capron Primary School, Five Cays, Providenciales - PHOTO TAKEN August 9, 2020

#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.

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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.

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“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. 

FILE: PDM Cabinet Ministers, Magnetic Media photo – July 2020

“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.

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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.

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

Bahamas News

MP’s Graduate with Parliamentary Governance Certificates

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January 18, 2022 – The Caribbean Democrat Union (CDU), in partnership with the Conservatives Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) Programme, held an Online Graduation Ceremony on Friday January 14th 2022 for fifteen (15) Members of Parliament who successfully completed a one year certificate programme in Parliamentary Governance with McGill University in Canada.

This professional development certificate programme is recognized by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and provided MP’s with important theoretical and practical knowledge in executing their roles and responsibilities as legislators. Sponsorship for the MP’s was provided by the Conservatives WFD Programme.

The successful graduates included:

  • Tracy Panton– MP Albert, UDP, Belize
  • Shyne Barrow – MP, Mesopotamia, UDP, Belize
  • Senator Hon. Sheena Pitts – UDP, Belize
  • Kerensia Morrison – MP St. Catherine North Eastern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Tova Hamilton – MP, Trelawny Northern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Dr. Michelle Charles – MP, St. Thomas Eastern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Tamika Davis – MP, Hanover Western, JLP, Jamaica
  • Rhoda Crawford – MP, Manchester Central, JLP, Jamaica
  • Anne Marie Vaz – MP, Portland Eastern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Krstyal Lee – MP, St. Anne North Western, JLP, Jamaica
  • Robert Miller – MP St. Catherine South Eastern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Heroy Clarke – MP, St. James Central, JLP, Jamaica
  • Dwight Sibblies – MP, Clarendon Northern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Morland Wilson – MP, Westmoreland Western, JLP, Jamaica
  • Senator Hon. Shevern John – NDP, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The Online Graduation Ceremony was attended by The Most Hon. Andrew Holness Prime Minister of Jamaica, Maria Miller Conservative MP UK, Dr. Hon. Godwin Friday Leader of the Opposition St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hon. Patrick Faber Leader of the Opposition Belize, Carola Weil Dean of Continuing Studies McGill University, Nick Francis Secretary General CDU, and other officials from the UK Conservative Party’s International Department and Faculty and Staff from McGill University.

Mr. Nick Francis in his remarks at the ceremony noted that this initiative was birthed through greater engagement and consultation with stakeholders in the region in light of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and he was grateful to the administrators at McGill University for partnering with the CDU and the Conservatives WFD Programme to make this online training possible.

Hon. Patrick Faber and Dr. Hon. Godwin Friday extended congratulations to the graduates and expressed gratitude to the Conservatives WFD Programme, the CDU and McGill University on this successful collaboration to enhance parliamentary democracy in their respective countries.

A second cohort of trainees will commence the Parliamentary Governance Certificate with McGill University in March of this year and will include young prospective MP’s.

Quotes:

Dean of Continuing Studies at McGill University Carola Weil extended congratulations to the fifteen (15) MP’s for successfully completing the yearlong certificate programme in Parliamentary Governance and noted that this was an “important step towards the continuation of good governance and democracy around the world”

In addressing the graduates at the ceremony, Prime Minster the Most Hon. Andrew Holness noted his expectations that the training received will help to inform their advocacy, guide their involvement in policy development, and “contribute to a new cadre of political representatives that will always strive for the highest standards of excellence in governance, in parliamentary practice, and in political representation.”

Conservative MP Maria Miller UK in a pre-recorded message to the graduates (the majority being new female MP’s) noted that in light of the challenges facing women in politics, “the Conservative WFD Programme is committed to strengthening democracy by creating a much more inclusive, accountable and transparent political system.”

 

Press Release: CDU

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Education

Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge

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By Shaniek Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.

It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.

In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced.  Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations.  The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.

The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season.  The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.

In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.

The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI.  It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.

“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.

Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.

Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.

Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.

“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.

Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.

He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.

“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.

Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.

Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.

 

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Health

Government apologizes to Churches for NEW Covid-19 Testing rule

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#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – The TCI Government is apologizing for including the Church in a new raft of restrictions which mandates unvaccinated congregants be tested in order to be allowed to attend church events however, there is no change in the rule.  The rule is now delayed start for another two weeks following an announcement issued by the Ministry of Health on Thursday evening.

The apology came from Premier Washington Misick in a statement late Wednesday, where he apologized for bunching the church in with restaurants, lounges, bars and discotheques which also have to follow the regulation.

Church pastors speaking with Magnetic Media expressed shock at the announcement which was revealed, on Tuesday, as a cabinet approved decision which also includes mandatory testing for the unvaccinated to attend funerals.

While there has been no official statement from the Turks and Caicos Islands Christian Council or the Pastors Fraternity it was clear that some of the church community seemed prepared to stand firmly against the measure.

The Premier has promised that there will be consultation going forward; beckoning to Churches to comply with the temporary rule which he said would help to curb the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.

 

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