Jasford Gabriel and Winston Smith

New JTA President-Elect Concerned about Teachers' Safety

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, January 6, 2021

NEW president-elect of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Winston Smith has expressed concern for the safety of teachers as the country continues to record new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), especially since more schools were approved this week by the Ministry of Education to resume face-to-face classes.

“We have a conundrum because the safety and security of our teachers are of paramount importance to us. We are not sure we want to have our teachers being exposed to COVID-19, traversing the length and breadth of Jamaica to get to and from work,” Smith told the Jamaica Observer yesterday after his confirmation as president-elect for the 2020/2021 period, at a special general council meeting at JTA headquarters, downtown Kingston.

“We understand that the ministry expects us to do the duty of care in educating our children. But it has to be done in a manner that will allow for the safety of all concerned,” he added.

Smith stressed that he would be working with current JTA President Jasford Gabriel to continue talks with the Ministry of Education on matters relating to the country's response to the impact of the pandemic on the education sector.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Fayval Williams announced in Parliament that 22 of the additional 125 pilot schools have already resumed face-to-face classes, having been approved to start on December 7 through to December 18.

Williams said the Government made the decision after a satisfactory completion of the pilot reopening of 17 schools, across nine parishes, in November.

Schools selected for the pilot programme are institutions that have been deemed low risk and compliant with COVID-19 safety measures.

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