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Union Has Doubts On Schools Reopening

BUT president Belinda Wilson.

BUT president Belinda Wilson.

By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT

tsmith-cartwright@tribunemedia.net

PRESIDENT of Bahamas Union of Teachers Belinda Wilson has expressed doubt that the Ministry of Education is ready for the 2020 school year.

She said after meeting with her team, there are too many unanswered questions.

She spoke to The Tribune a day after Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd announced public and private schools will now reopen on October 5 as opposed to September 21, with virtual learning only for the islands of New Providence, Abaco and Eleuthera at first.

Yesterday, Mrs Wilson said a draft plan from education officials left her executive team with many questions, adding she was blindsided by Monday’s announcement of an October 5 school start date.

“I had my full executive team, along with the management union, spend those two days looking at, and discussing, the Ministry of Education’s draft plan. There were so many questions we had that were not answered,” she said.

“So the opening for October 5, we were hearing for the first time, as everyone else was hearing it in the media from the minister’s presentation. The only time we heard of that date was when we learned that we would go virtual from September 21 and then October 5 shift to face-to-face. That was it.”

She is also upset that education officials plan to resume national exams this month, saying her union gave a viable alternative that would keep all stakeholders safe. She also gave examples of what other countries and entities were doing when faced with the same thing.

“The resumption of the BJC and the BGCSE examinations was not discussed with the union,” she said. “However, I believe that the ministry should cancel the sitting of the examination and use predicted or forecasted grades from the teachers for them to be able to award students their certificates in the various areas. This was recommended.

“The purpose of still holding the exams, the ministry claims, is for students to use for colleges and universities, but UB has waived those requirements for entrance and other universities have already started online. They also said it was to be used for scholarships, but there were no new scholarships awarded this year for international students. The UK has an education accreditation centre and they do the accreditation for national or exit examinations for 160 countries and 10,000 schools and they used the forecasted grades from the teachers.”

Mrs Wilson said with COVID-19 numbers increasing in the nation, she cannot understand why the Ministry of Education is prepared to risk the health of 15,500 students to take the national exams in rooms together when they are implementing virtual learning to prevent the same.

The subject of online learning and the state of affairs in Abaco hit a raw nerve for her.

“We are unclear about what learning management system they are going to be using,” she said. “What is the platform that is going to be used? We have no information or details on that. When school closed abruptly in March, teachers were using cell phones, laptops and iPads – whatever they found that was theirs, personally.

“Now I’ve not heard the minister say that teachers will receive a laptop or device for them to work from. And, if we say that we moving into the virtual or online learning, then the pens, pencils, paper and white boards are now obsolete. So if you are telling me that I am moving into the virtual sphere, then the expectation is that you will give me my tools and those tools are laptops, tablets or iPads for me to deliver this instruction and education that you are now saying is mandatory for me to deliver.”

Abaco, as far as she is concerned, will not be ready to accept teachers coming in for this school year. She said after Hurricane Dorian devastated that island, not instructed by the ministry, some of the teachers there took students into buildings and started to teach them. Her fear now is for the teachers who are supposed to travel to that island to teach students.

“You are asking 40 to 50 teachers to return to Abaco,” she said. “You are asking them to return, but who is going to pay for their tickets, the freight and duty on their vehicles and their personal items? You are asking them to return to Abaco where housing is nonexistent or where it is existing, based on the inquiries of the teachers, the rent is between $1,100 and up to $2,500 per month. When the rental allowance that we have agreed upon is only $700 a month. So who is going to be responsible for the difference? The schools are not ready, where are they teaching these children?”

She feels that moving from face-to-face learning to online learning warrants new policies.

“If you have been doing face-to-face learning for the last 50 years in education and you’re now transitioning to online or virtual learning, then that calls for new policies or an amendment to the policies you presently have,” the union president said. “We are still waiting for the work from home policies; policies for signing in; class size policies and COVID policies.”

Comments

moncurcool 1 year, 8 months ago

“Now I’ve not heard the minister say that teachers will receive a laptop or device for them to work from. And, if we say that we moving into the virtual or online learning, then the pens, pencils, paper and white boards are now obsolete. So if you are telling me that I am moving into the virtual sphere, then the expectation is that you will give me my tools and those tools are laptops, tablets or iPads for me to deliver this instruction and education that you are now saying is mandatory for me to deliver.”

Amazing how she hears the Minister announce the date for school to open but she doesn't hear him also mention in the same speech that teachers will get laptops.

Belinda and her union is one of the greatest impediments to the education system in this country.

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ohdrap4 1 year, 8 months ago

Can you quote the part of the speech where he said the teachers would get laptops? He said no such thing.

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licks2 1 year, 8 months ago

Then please tell us how the teachers will go virtual without means to access the virtual space?? Yinna political peoples dem need to stop talking fool. . .the ministry of education is mandated by law (education act) to provide resources for teachers to teach. . .teachers are not required to "provide" their own resources to effect teaching of children. THE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION IS WOEFULLY UNPREPARED FOR WHAT COVID19 DEMANDS OF HIM AND HIS ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM!! Covid19 een hindered him, it just exposed his 'negligent hired" status!!

For you who are not familiar with human terms. . .negligent hired is the wrong person was hired or chosen for a particular job. . . the demands of the job overwhelmed them when they tried to carried it out!! In the military it is called "A CLUSTER F***". . .they hired person is absolutely lost. . .not "kinnda lost". . ."all kapunkal up" lost in the Bahamian vernacular!!

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tetelestai 1 year, 8 months ago

He said no such thing, moncurcool.

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trueBahamian 1 year, 8 months ago

She said how surprised she was along with her management team about this sudden change from the Ministry of Education. She goes on to tell of the challenges she sees. But, what is interesting is she takes the time to go to the media, but you don't see any mention of the fact that she spoke to the Minister to see if he would reconsider his position.

She is a union leader who isn't shy of a fight. So, why go first to the media before talking to the Ministry. Is it about hoping to solve an issue or is it about getting in the media? Do we have to tell her, if the Ministry isn't being reasonable she needs to stand up for her people? It seems she is working her own personal angle here.

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licks2 1 year, 8 months ago

This is one foolish post. . .THE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION DO NOT COMMUNICATE WITH HIS INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL STAKEHOLDERS. . .HE ACTS AS A RESOURCE UNTO HIMSELF. . .IF HE OR HIS MINSTER WOULD LEARN TO CONSULT WITH RELEVANT STAKEHOLDERS AND REFRAIN FROM BEING A "DO AS I SAY" ADMINISTRATOR IN THEIR APPROACH TO RUNNING THAT DEPARTMENT THINGS WILL BE A WHOLE LOT BETTER AND SMOOTHER!! THE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION IS LOST AND CLUELESS.. . .

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ohdrap4 1 year, 8 months ago

Teachers ordinarily get their own supplies.

The ministry does not have the proper online platform that could cost them in the millions of dollars. In addition , computers,and online platforms are not sentient beings and require staff to take care of them. So they have to significantly increase IT resources.

They simply cannot afford to buy laptops for teacher.

While a tablet may be sufficient to attend online lessons, a teacher needs a laptop to produce lessons.

They will have to open ftf . They cannot afford the infrastructure.

BTW, who is laying down the fiber optic cables?

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trueBahamian 1 year, 8 months ago

Even if you can lay fiber optic cables, the question is, can you do it in time? This is a long, sad process.

It's really sad how the kids are impacted by this whole crisis. It seems that globally countries are trying to figure out how to get kids back to school (virtual and in-person).

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licks2 1 year, 8 months ago

Point well taken!! However, teachers are NOT. . .I say NOT responsible for "buying" the required teaching resources for delivery of student education. . .education act says that the minister of education is responsible for that!! The administration chooses to NOT dialogue or consult with internal and external stakeholders to reach a "happy medium" for the way forward!! So why the department of education is ignoring input from its primary internal stakeholders (teachers, education planners and technical professionals) yet expects to "order" so many uninformed decisions and expect to have no "push-back" from its broad-based stakeholders groups!! Stakeholders are "informed" of decisions over the media. . .yinna expect no "rowing" to take place!! Chile please!!

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 8 months ago

The stakeholders are talking past each other ........... Lloyd is using his soapbox ....... the Unions have few options .......... most parents just want a viable option for their children (ftf or online)

At the end of the day ........ the politicians, unionists, parents and teachers already have their education ....... the kids need theirs.

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licks2 1 year, 8 months ago

I agree. . .you sound as if you are "familiar" with the mess at MOE. . .the doll house mentality among its administration persons!! Therefore, I expect that you know the "broken link" in that department. . .its director is a "dud" and can't perform as a professional director of education!! He is overwhelmed in normal circumstances. . .COVID19 thinking processes floored him!!

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Bastian 1 year, 8 months ago

I believe they should cancel the BJC AND BGCSE and use a replacement grade off an assignment for it .

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licks2 1 year, 8 months ago

Them "hard headed" people in administration over there was already given a stakeholders-wide document of about 55 pages laying out a comprehensive approach to navigating covid19 all the way into school reopening protocols!! This document came from inter and external stakeholders. . .all unions included!! But as usual, the childish director of education refused to consider anything from anybody except himself and his small circle of friends who "sucking-up to him" and too afraid of retaliation from him if he feels slighted by any of them!! The unions and teachers had already set out a sensible plan for hosting national exams. . .but as usual, the director would have none of it!!

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