JTA unhappy with health measures for face-to-face learning

JTA unhappy with health measures for face-to-face learning

Staff reporter

Saturday, November 21, 2020

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) President Jasford Gabriel has advised teachers not to take on the role of medical professionals amid the current COVID-19 crisis.

Gabriel, who was addressing the JTA's half-yearly virtual meeting for Manchester yesterday, complained of a lack of isolation areas — considered crucial for infection prevention and control — and school nurses, in the two-week pilot of face-to-face classes in 17 schools which ended yesterday.

Education Minister Fayval Williams recently said it would be logical to continue face-to-face classes at the 17 schools after the pilot ended .

Gabriel suggested that educators focus on teaching and leave health-related matters to professionals.

“We still have the issue of school nurses not available in primary schools and even in high schools [being] without nurses. We are contending that we cannot open without the health authorities being present to offer the kind of support in the case of any suspicion of COVID-19,” he said.

“Teachers, you are not health professionals, and I would suggest that you refrain from taking on any responsibility to take up the role that would normally be played by our health professionals. In some instances teachers are given the responsibility to escort students to the isolation area and to practice the protocols until the Ministry of Health or other authorities get involved. I would suggest that you desist from that; you concentrate on the teaching and learning. Leave the health matters to the health professionals,” he stressed.

He reiterated that the JTA's position on schools having face-to-face classes stems from the guidance of the Ministry of Health.

“…. Our position on face-to-face has been quite clear from the get go. From day one, I keep making the point that the opening of school is a public health matter. Nobody else can give permission for school to be open other than the Ministry of Health signs off on that along with taking into concern the Disaster Risk Management Act,” he said.

He raised concerns about the lack of implementation of measures in schools, which have had face-to-face learning.

“In touring a few schools Monday… I visited two in Manchester and picked up quite a few of the concerns that I raised at the ministry [of education] level. Concerns that are fundamental and must be addressed before we speak to open any school. In fact, I was not convinced that in a couple of these schools that the Ministry of Health did give the sign off and at the consultation level,” he said.

“I encourage the teachers to insist and get the confirmation that the Ministry of Health would have signed off, if it is that your school is proposed for face-to-face. Things like schools not having the proper protocol for isolation and to deal with any case that presents with symptoms of COVID-19. The minister herself alluded to the fact [it] was a shortcoming in a few schools.

“The Ministry of Health obviously could not have signed off for the opening of these schools without those protocols being in place,” he went on.

He said the attendance of students at schools with face-to-face classes is low.

“Some of the risks that we are taking now, I don't think that it is worth it. You look at the attendance coming out for face-to-face instruction and in all the schools that I have gone to, the attendance online has been greater than the attendance face-to-face. In fact, it is the same cohort of students that were online that are showing up for face-to-face [classes],” he said.

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