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Opinion: COVID-19 and school re-opening in Turks & Caicos

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August 12, 2020 – The Press Conference held on Tuesday, August 11 2020 by the Premier and Minister of Education left the public with more questions than answers concerning the  reopening of school.

It’s morally reprehensible that after six months, and with two weeks before the previously announced opening date, the current government cannot provide the students and parents of the Turks and Caicos Islands with a clear and concise plan to safely and effectively provide a learning environment for our children.

This same government has been able to clearly define guidelines for the reopening of bars and pubs, but now we find that it is still unclear how schools will reopen, and if so, how we can be assured that our children will be accommodated in a safe and healthy environment.

We have a moral obligation to get our children back in the classroom.

We also have a civic duty to ensure that once the school year resumes, every student is  afforded world-class learning opportunities.

COVID-19 is but a test of our resolve and as a nation we must stand to, and pass, this test.

As a parent of two school-aged daughters, I share the concern of many parents who are eager for our children to get back in the classroom; but only if it’s safe for them to do so.

We understand that while online learning is usable, is not a replacement for the traditional classroom experience, especially in the case of pupils in the primary years where attention spans are just being developed.

But we cannot send our children back to school without first seeing the Ministry of Education’s plan to keep our children safe.

We as parents demand to see the blue print of the Plan and we should be invited to do a walk through of the classrooms before schools are reopen.

A proposed solution:
Citizens and residents of the TCI please do not despair or give up hope,

There is still an opportunity to save the school year and guarantee safe and effective education for our children.

I would encourage the government to employ a phased approach to the resumption of school to allow a safe and seamless reintegration of students to school life.

Subject to the Ministry of Education’s blue print being reviewed by parents,  allow school to resume for high school students  as planned, with different groups attending school at different intervals to allow for orientation and software dissemination.

At this point, devices can be qualified and requisite adjustments made. Students can then commence online learning as retrofit works are carried out for classrooms and meeting spaces. 

Primary aged children can follow, based on how the high school students cope with the measures, to allow for integration and then the kindergarten years.

Once the online learning has commenced and retrofit works are done, students can then be scheduled to return to school in small groups on shift systems to slowly reintegrate the classroom presence into the curriculum.

The aim should be to have all students receiving at least 4 hours of classroom time per day by a timeframe and at least 6 hours a day by another time frame. It is notable considering the four hours of education as an innovation that in Finland – which leads the world in education success and rankings – children do not begin school until age 7, and then attend only from 10am to 2 pm and yet Finland leads the world in nearly every category in global education rankings. This means we should not just try to cope, but there is an opportunity to reform toward higher success.

The return to classroom learning must not be rushed and it must not be abandoned.

We have a responsibility to ensure that this generation who has been entrusted to us, is put in a position to do better and to take this country further than us. 

I understand the the Minister and Premier may be a bit overwhelmed, but I implore you all to do what is right by the students and parents of this country.

COVID-19 is everybody’s business and an educated society is even moreso.

Submitted by Mark A Fulford

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

Polio is back; 65 million missed shots in another COVID fall out

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#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

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News

New Rules for Turks & Caicos JPs

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#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.

That power has now been transferred from the Governor to the Chief Justice.

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.

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Health

Young People in TCI are having sex, Rapport wants to ensure they’re doing it safe

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By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm

Editorial Staff

 

#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.”

A five person delegation was this past  week representing the Turks and Caicos Islands at the International Aids Conference, staged in Montreal, Canada July 29 – August 2, 2022.

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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