Port of Spain – Trinidad & Tobago prime minister Dr Keith Rowley warned on Tuesday that though schools were re-opening for face-to-face classes after two years due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic “we are still not out of the woods yet”.
Rowley said in a statement that school children were returning to classrooms after almost two years of experiencing the “worst trauma, stress, and overall deprivation in their development”.
“The pandemic has made demands on our young ones that none of the rest of us have ever been called upon to deal with,” he said.
“We wish them all God’s blessings and guidance as they retrieve their development pathways. Our country’s future depends on their protection and their success.”
He added: “I implore all citizens to remember that we are still not out of the woods yet. The pandemic is still a very real threat, and our individual cooperation is required to ameliorate its effects.
“It’s a good, long-awaited day. Let us acknowledge its significance and continue working diligently and responsibly towards even better days. Our children hold our promise and they deserve all our support. Watch them go. Help them grow.”
Earlier, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly wished pupils all the best on their first day back to physical school after being home for two years.
“While some students were out for exams, along with the fourth and sixth formers, all students can make their way back out to the physical classroom based on the advice from the officials of the Ministry of Health,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
She noted that it was time that students come back out and socialise, as the past two years have been very difficult for them and the parents.
“As they go back to school, the students must do so safely,” she said. “Living in this pandemic, we have to teach our children how they live safely.
“I know that parents and teachers will be constantly reminding students how to be safe, how to observe the three Ws (wash hands, wear mask, watch distance). These things are still very important.”
The Trinidad & Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) said, however, there were still many outstanding issues that need to be addressed before schools reopen.
“TTUTA is not 100 per cent convinced that the Ministry of Education is ready for the reopening, as we have people on the ground who are saying that there is not enough furniture and there are staff shortages,” TTUTA first vice-president Marlon Seales said on a radio programme.
“However, the district officials for TTUTA will be in the field to assess the situation properly.”
T&T has recorded 3 803 deaths and 142 200 infections linked to the COVID-19 pandemic since the first case was recorded in March two years ago.