Dr. Blaize, left and DAT President Alexander
Dr. Blaize, left and DAT President Alexander

It is almost a month since the official reopening of schools here following the March 2020 closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked about the feedback on the re-commencement of schools, Assistant Chief Education Officer Dr. Jeffery Blaize said he is satisfied with the progress the Ministry of Education has made and he thanked school principals for their management of the situation.

But the Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT) has stated that there have been many problems with COVID-19 protocols and the reopening of schools.

Last week, Dr. Blaize and his support staff held a face-to-face meeting with school principals, on Friday September 25, to get a first-hand update and assessment of what was going on.

"They have all expressed satisfaction so far at the way things have gone since the reopening of school on September 7," Dr. Blaize said.

"Also, we have been issuing sanitization materials and desks for the schools based on need. I can tell you that we at the Ministry of Education are very satisfied with the reports from our schools and I am sure that my staffs are also very satisfied," Dr. Blaize said.

He continued: "I feel that by and large, our principals are also very satisfied. We treat every school as a case and give them all the priority that is deserved. Some schools have a shift system and we work with them...we listen to our stakeholders and do what is needed.

"As we speak, all our schools are fully functional with students taking part in the relevant activities and we have ensured that all teachers have a personal copy of the guidelines that was produced. We continue our training on blended approach. We are doing a lot with our supervision and support staff," he said.

Dr. Blaize said the Ministry of Education thrives on parental collaboration and support and without the parents and teachers it will be very difficult for the ministry to implement the level of education that is required.

"It is essential that parents continue to work with the school in whatever small way possible…special mention must go out to our many cleaners across the school who are doing a fabulous job with hygiene. They have gone out of the way to ensure that the necessary protocols are adhered to and we are eternally grateful to them," Dr. Blaize said.

But DAT president Mervin Alexander has a totally different view of the implementation of the COVID-19 protocols in schools. He said the teachers are "dissatisfied with how things have gone so far."

"We have visited schools in the Southern and Eastern district and frankly speaking, the response we got from the principals is not what the ministry is saying. "None of the schools have wardens, and the teachers were the ones doing the sanitization of hands. They got supplies like Clorox for cleaning but not for hand sanitization. All the principals disclosed that they had to buy their supplies to begin school," Alexander said.

"All of them had the same responses. We are disappointed and totally dissatisfied with what is going on," he said.

This week his executive, he said, will be meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education to make the necessary complains and he hopes the situation will improve.

Meantime, Dr. Blaize revealed that the Ministry of Education has dedicated the month of October as "National Pride and Heritage Month".

"We have briefed and sensitized principals so they can effectively pass the message to ensure that students have pride in themselves and country," he said. "Students will be engaged in cultural activities, short stories, craft and exploration of the natural environment and also looking at local and national heroes."