By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, May 14, 2022 – Mask mandates may have been dropped throughout the country but students will have to continue to mask up for classes for the foreseeable future.
Students will be made to keep their masks on until the end of the school year in July.
Another defence in the ongoing Coronaivurs Pandemic, is the Ministry of Health’s increasing push for child vaccinations against Covid-19.
Vaccines for children ages 6-11 are now available in the TCI, however uptake has been low.
The Education Ministry has not released any communication on precisely why the mask mandates are being extended for students but the decision comes following a rise in Covid-19 cases on the islands.
15,000 Caribbean Educators to get Training to recover from COVID
By Sherrica Thompson
The Caribbean, September 16, 2022 – Approximately 15,000 educators in the region will be trained under a newly implemented programme, the Learning Recovery and Enhancement Programme (Let’s REAP) to assist students in overcoming the learning losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This initiative is being facilitated by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, and the OECS Commission.
Upon successful completion, participants will receive a certificate from the University of the West Indies (UWI) Joint Boards of Teacher Education.
The 45-hour course will focus on three core components of Let’s REAP: Leadership and Accountability, Assessment and Differentiated Instruction, and Communities of Practice (CoP).
The Let’s REAP programme was launched in July 2021, and it had input from the CARICOM Regional Network of Planning Officers (RNPO), the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT), and the Caribbean Association for Principals of Secondary Schools (CAPSS), and the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).
Ministry fails, no school again for Grand Turk Special Needs children
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, September 16, 2022 – Special needs children in Grand Turk will not be starting the new school year with other students; once again the Government has failed to ensure educational opportunities for all children.
Parents of special needs students set to start at the Ona Glinton Primary school in Grand Turk were again disappointed when nearly a week after school was supposed to start, they were told a staff shortage means their children will not be able to be accommodated. It is a disturbing repeat of previous years and a heartbreaking reality as the Ministry of Education has failed to get the desperately needed program off the ground.
On July 8 this year during a press conference to address the special needs situation, Minister of Education Rachel Taylor said: “We are at a critical turning point in our country and our special-needs community will not be left behind, you are at the forefront of our plans and programs, my government and I will ensure that you have all you need to progress. No effort will be spared in ensuring that the needs, infrastructure and programs are in place to fill the gaps.”
Yet, on Sunday afternoon parents were advised by school officials of the vacancies and told they would be informed as soon as the staff need was filled. Only then would their children be able to enter school.
It leaves special needs children in limbo and parents and the community angered.
As neuro-typical students advance, their special needs children remain behind, not due to a lack of ability or compliance with the law which demands children over four years be registered in a school; but due to the inadequate response by successive governments.
In the press conference, Minister Taylor had said that the ministry had hired more special-needs teachers to deal with the growing population.
“We have on boarded additional special-needs teachers across the Turks and Caicos Islands so they can deal with the challenges. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need that special needs school and as a ministry we will deliver on that promise.” she said.
We now know based on a more recent back to school press conference it will take at least three more months for that school to open and it will open in phases instead of at full capacity. We also learned as many as 15 teachers quit TCIG abruptly leaving a public education in a lurch.
And while the government is giving a big pitch on the establishment of that special needs centre, sustainability may be an issue as the initial class size will be tiny; an admission from the Education Director Edgar Howell.
“It is the government’s remit to make sure that services are provided for all of our children. This means plans are afoot to create a special needs center that all of our children whether diagnosed or not. We will start with a small group of students and then build out our capacity,” said Howell.
Permanent Secretary Wesley Clerveaux and Special Needs Officer Jas Walkin both admitted that the Ministry was aware prior to the press conference and prior to the summer that there were not enough teachers for all special-needs students on the island. Yet appropriate steps have still not been taken and notices have come so very late.
It leaves parents now scrambling to implement an alternate plan for their children, who are being left behind by their peers in the same age group.
One resident in an open letter stated, “It does not seem to be a real concern for the public servants who swore on the Bible to serve the Turks and Caicos Islands— A shortage of staff may have created a shortage of services in the school system but it is abundantly clear that special needs are surely not being given priority.”
There have been reports in Providenciales as well of children being turned away from public schools having to enter the private system to give their children a chance at an education.
Every year the inability to register hundreds of students, complete refurbishment of schools and fill teacher gaps rears its ugly head. Residents express outrage as millions of dollars in surplus is celebrated while basic constitutional rights are sidelined and underserved.
TCI Resignations Impact
Students in the Turks and Caicos Islands will be short of 15 teachers this year as 13 have already indicated they will leave before September’s opening date, and two more are set to leave during the school year, increasing the number from the initial ten that resigned in late August.
Director of Education, Mr. Edgar Howell explained, “As a result of what is going on in the world, the Turks and Caicos Islands has been impacted by resignations. To date, there are 15. The opening of school will be impacted directly by 13, the other two will leave during the school year, which will give us the opportunity to have those positions filled or to have temporary appointments in them.”
Deputy Director of Education Mark Garland hinted that the resignations had come suddenly, describing them as “unforeseen”. As a result of those unforeseen resignations, the education ministry won’t be able to start school with a complete complement of staff.
“In situations such as these, efforts would have been made to employ teachers on a temporary basis until we are able to fill those vacancies via the recruitment process.” he said.
The unfortunate aspect of the recruitment process however is that it can be lengthy, because of the significant number of steps involved. In addition to that, Garland said even after a suitable candidate has been identified, individuals may reject the offer, forcing the ministry to restart the process.
The TCI is not the only country suffering from resignations; Jamaica and the United States have reported hundreds and thousands of gaps respectively.
In a previous press conference, Minister of Education Rachel Taylor had indicated that the gaps were specialized teachers, including home economics, science, and mathematics. All three representatives assured that the Ministry is working as quickly as they can to fill the gaps
Permanent secretary in the Ministry, Wesley Clerveaux, told residents not to be alarmed at the vacancies, stressing that they had substitute teachers in place that they could call on to provide support in the meantime.
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