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Education Minister outlines options to cope with possible teacher absence

Education Minister outlines options to cope with possible teacher absence
Minister of Education Curtis King

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Minister of Education Curtis King says his ministry is making the necessary provisions to minimise any fallout in the event that teachers do not return to work once the government’s vaccine policy is implemented. 

“…I know that we have quite a large number of teachers who were trained at that level; what we would call them is Qualified Assistant Teachers, and at that level of primary school we have a large number and if needs be, I don’t think we would have any difficulty in filling whatever vacancies exist,” King said on Sunday during the “Issues at Hand” radio programme. 

The SR&O No. 28 of 2021 – The Public Health (Public bodies Special Measures) Rules, 2021 officially comes into effect today, November 19 for certain public workers, including teachers. 

This statutory rule and order dictates that the 13 identified groups of workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to continue working in their respective areas. 

About 2000 teachers and ancillary staff at schools make up the largest group of identified workers required to be vaccinated.
And if absent from duty without leave for a continuous period of 10 working days, workers will be deemed as having abandoned the post, which then becomes vacant. 

That individual would have also abandoned any accrued benefits. 

King, while speaking on WEFM on Sunday said finding replacements at the secondary level is not as straightforward because “we want persons with the content to speak on respective subjects”. 

However, he added that his ministry was “exploring all sorts of possibilities”. 

One solution which the education minister believes will be more popular going forward is technology and the concept of a “master teacher”. 

“I can recall, when I was a teacher we had for example, students and teachers used to come from a particular part of the country to a next school where they would sit in for classes. I recall also that outside of even a practising teacher, the person might be a teacher but not necessarily a teacher but somebody with knowledge in a particular subject area would be invited to schools to deliver on particular fields,” the retired educator said. 

King further explained that another solution would be to have teachers who possess the requisite content to deliver lessons, which would be recorded, saved and retrieved for later presentation. 

According to the education minister, trials are also ongoing at two primary schools where a teacher virtually administers foreign language lessons to students twice weekly. 

“What I’m saying is that the possibility exists for us to make a fundamental shift in how we deliver our education services and teachers and all other stakeholders must be cognisant that despite the fact that the COVID-19 situation is presenting a lot of challenges, it is also providing opportunities for us to make a fundamental shift in the manner in which we do things, including how we deliver our education services,” he said. 

But the minister encouraged teachers to get vaccinated, reiterating that it is necessary for the continuation of school in the face to face format as well as in the country’s quest to recover financially and return to a semblance of normalcy.

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