BUT: Some teachers return to school – what now?

BUT: Some teachers return to school – what now?
Bahamas Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson said the Minister of Education must find a new way to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond as teachers return to schools with “uncertainty as to what is expected of them”.

The government announced the closure of schools on March 15, after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country.

After weeks of closures and a shift to virtual learning, some teachers returned to the classrooms last Wednesday.

Wilson said BUT stewards, assistant shop stewards, and executives conducted an inspection of schools throughout The Bahamas.

“Many of the schools did not have the sanitizers, mask, markers for social distancing nor were the classrooms cleaned,” she advised.

“Most principals did not have any information from the Ministry of Education so it was trial and error.

“Janitress arrived at school the same time as teachers so they did not have an opportunity to clean.

“However, some principals who were proactive provided hand sanitizer and mask mostly at a few small institutions.”

Wilson said some schools were a little better prepared with the necessary supplied but teachers “are still uncertain as to what is expected of them”.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and teachers are reminded to be safe and follow all protocols,” she said.

“…It is hoped that the Ministry of Education must change it’s modus operandi so that they can successfully navigate through this COVID-19 Pandemic and beyond.”

Teachers with co-morbidities and illnesses have been advised to remain home and make contact with their principals.

Last week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced that National Exams – including BJCs and BGCSEs – will be held on July 13.

The new date has garnered mixed views, with dozens of people voicing concerns over the readiness of students to take the test.

However, some teachers have also called into question the readiness of schools to host the examinations.

One teacher noted in a social media post that students will have to be spaced out in multiple classrooms in order to comply to social distancing protocols.

However, she indicated that for the aural part of the English BGCSE and BJC exams, multiple CD players and test CDs will be required for each classroom – which most schools do not have.

Additionally, she noted that exam CDs are not allowed to be opened before the exams and cannot be replicated.

This is just among several concerns over how schools will have to shift operations to adjust to the virus.

When asked about the capacity concerns, Education Director Marcellus Taylor told Eyewitness News: “We are aware of many such issues and seeking to address all of them.”