Minister for Education, Human Resource Planning, Vocational Training and National Excellence, Octavia Alfred has said that principals on island have been asked to be “very accommodating” to students during the week of the resumption of face to face learning.
Alfred made this announcement earlier today at a press conference hosted by the Ministry of Education, where detailed guidelines were provided on what is expected during the first week of in-person learning which kicks off on Monday, February 7th, 2022.
“We also want to say to our parents, let not your heart be troubled so much. We understand, as we discuss with our parents, that there will be little challenges, even if it was the first week of September, some of the things that we are hearing now we would have heard,” she stated in what appears to be a response to the many comments made on social media about the short notice given for the reopening of school.
Addressing the concerns raised by parents about the lack of school essentials, the Minister assured them that the coming weeks will be “a completely different orientation mode,” where the students will meet their teachers and when Grade K and form 1, in particular, will get a tour of the school as this has not been done due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“For us, next week is what the first week of September would be. We need people to understand that next week is not a continuation of online. Next week is the first week of face to face school which means that it’s a lot of orientation, especially for Grade K students and form one students,” Alfred explained. “So we have already prepared our teachers that these little people are going to behave just like they would behave when their parents drop them off in September, because yes they’ve been in school online, but they’ve been at home.”
“So we say to our parents, don’t be afraid. Don’t be too concerned about the challenges that you have next week, present your best and know that the Ministry of Education and the school management will work to ensure that your child is made comfortable,” she added.
The Education Minister defended the Government’s decision to reopen schools, stating that this decision was taken after conducting extensive consultation with all education stakeholders, including the Dominica Association of Teachers (DTA), the Dominica Public Service Unions (DPSU), school boards, parents associations representatives, student representatives, bus drivers, cooks and cleaners.
“The general consensus was that in the best interest of our students, we resumed face to face learning, but in a phased approach,” she stated.
“We say again, our commitment is to the safe return of our students to school. I could stay there this morning and outline to you all the reasons why our children need to go back to school; I’m sure all of you can even name some of them, including the psychosocial aspects. Some students call it their safe, happy place. Some students, that’s where they eat on time, they get their lunch, a lot of things and we know that even if we distribute devices and students have access to the internet, it still remains a challenge for some parents…we have a number of reasons why in the best interest of our students is to have them meet their teachers,“ Alfred explained.
As it pertains to the preschools and daycare centres which were not included on the government’s list of students who will return to school next week, she revealed that talks are ongoing to have them back in the classroom or respective locations in the coming weeks.
According to the minister, preschools that are part of the government’s primary schools will follow the same arrangement with grade K, be it daily or three face to face sessions per week, whereas for other early childhood centres, the logistics are still being put in place.
“Their contexts are varied. Some of them are private; some of them are in church buildings. We are working with environmental health and [expect to] receive a report and these people will be contacted one on one as it pertains to their openings,” she said.
Alfred also revealed that the same will apply for daycare centres based on their report from environmental health, and gave the assurance that the owners will soon be contacted.