Opinion: COVID-19 and school re-opening in Turks & Caicos
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
Branch out and Tap in to greater Financial Opportunities says Robert Hall
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, March 24, 2023 – Teachers in The Turks and Caicos need to be allowed to market their skills to the private sector, broadening their earning potential and likely enhancing their tenure as teachers, also attached to the Turks and Caicos Islands Government.
Robert Hall, a former Minister of Education made the edgy suggestion at an Education Week Symposium which was carried live on the TCIG’s Facebook page.
“For instance, a good music teacher, rather than simply training voices why not get into the entertainment field?”
Home Economics teachers and Technical Drawing teachers and similarly talented individuals should break into the industry and tap into the Turks and Caicos’ multi-million-dollar clientele.
“Why not offer the service and you can do that at a cheaper rate. In each case whether it is the Home Ec teacher, the TD teacher or woodworking teacher; pull some of your students along with you into those areas,” he urged.
The presence of local job experience programs aside, what Hall is suggesting, should it be carried out, could put local teachers and students in the direct path of mega successful hoteliers, architects, artistes and more. Some of the most successful people in the world frequent the Turks and Caicos and there have been several occasions where residents have their talents recognized and honed by investors.
It is well known that the late Prince, a multi-award-winning singer, songwriter and producer, gave unique opportunities to Quinton Dean in music and Frank Forbes in culinary arts; one touring with him and the other his personal chef. Forbes was also a personal chef to music and movie star, Tyrese. More recently, recording artist Jenardo Laporte was handed a whopping $20,000 by global music mogul, Drake, when he demonstrated undeniable talent.
Robert Hall is a firm believer. He says that through branching out, educators would be able to seriously help themselves financially.
Illegal immigration, still a real threat in TCI
Tenders Published for Credit Union, South Caicos Port, K-9 Unit and Public Sector Pay Raise
By Dana Malcolm
#TurkandCaicos, March 24, 2023 – Contracts are now up for grabs as some long-awaited projects are poised to get started with funding allotted, and projects in need of companies to execute them; they include, the investigation into another pay increase for public servants, the new credit union, and development in South Caicos.
A suite of tender documents was officially published earlier this year for upgrades including the South Caicos Port Dredging Project.
The South Caicos Channel has not been properly maintained since it was initially constructed. The project aims to restore navigability to the port and increase the vessel, and barge sizes (tonnage capacity) with access to the port according to the government’s tender.
The TCIG says this is to reduce the costs of imports as the fully loaded barges reduce costs of goods and materials to residents, local businesses, and existing and future commercial development interests at South Caicos.
The Office of the Deputy Governor has also opened a tender to reassess payment for all public servants.
A consultant is being sought to do a grading review for the entire sector of which the Deputy Governor is in charge. The Government introduced a pay increase of 10 percent for public servants last year. However, most of that was not cash in hand as it went to a new retirement fund.
The tender follows the increase of the minimum wage in February, to 8 dollars an hour.
Next up is the new National Credit Union which the Ministry of Finance, Investment and Trade is hoping a consultant will step up to establish. The Credit Union is aimed at expanding financing options for residents beyond commercial lenders.
Customised vehicles are also being brought in for a brand-new K-9 unit at the Department of Customs. Late last year, K-9 Units were used at the nation’s ports and were successful in detecting and thwarting efforts to smuggle illicit drugs into the Turks and Caicos Islands.
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