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Minister of State for Education says schools are safer environment despite COVID; Teachers’ Union raises concern

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Posted: Tuesday, February 1, 2022. 11:33 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology has planned to re-open almost all schools to face-to-face learning opportunities by the end of January. But there is rising concern about teachers and students managing to contract COVID-19.

At last report, about 100 teachers and students had been infected, and Belize National Teachers’ Union President Senator Elena Smith told reporters last week that teachers are concerned that some schools don’t have the necessary sanitization supplies to keep the staff and students safe.

“It’s becoming concerning because we are seeing more and more teachers are being infected and our teachers want to ensure that they are really and truly protected, that we are heading back to school, because we want the best for our students, but in doing so we are in danger and who will protect us and where we will get that support from when our teachers get infected and so those are concerns coming to us right now that we have to discuss with the ministry to see how we will address the increasing number of cases within our schools, especially seeing that most of our schools are not fully face to face, so they are coming in some students on certain days and we are still seeing this happening and we see the cases rising. It’s a matter of concern for us and our members and I have reached out to the chief to request a meeting urgently for us to discuss these matters to see how we move forward.”

Smith added on the issue of schools staying open: “We have never been against reopening, we have always said that we want our teachers and students to be safe while we reopen and so if it is that can happen, it’s not going to be an issue, but if our members and students are not safe then that’s going to be an issue.”

And Minister of State in the Ministry Dr. Louis Zabaneh told us that schools can and should stay open as long as the established protocols are observed because, from the Ministry’s observations, those afflicted with the virus are not getting it at school: “If you look very carefully are what the protocols are within the schools themselves, we have encouraged parents to communicate with the management of the schools, the principals, etcetera, and we have learned a lot over the last two years about what works and what doesn’t work. We find that in fact the school environment is relatively safe compared to a home environment where you might have children running around, in the neighborhood and that sort of thing where you don’t have safeguards in place.”

Dr. Zabaneh said he commended the schools for doing their best and expressed confidence that if the protocols continued to be followed and communication between all maintained, schools can remain open to serve their students.

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