The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers, has written evidence from a conversation held between the Minister of Education and a parent, where the minister claims that he fully understands parents who do not want to send their children to school in September, and hinted indirectly that no fines will be issued should parents go for that option. He assured the parent of his willingness to maintain amicable relationships with parents and finally threw the onus of the chosen scenario on the discussions which will be held with the unions.
The Ministry wants schools to open their doors to students, and will not back down on that decision. The Ministry knows that many parents will not be sending their children to school and showed his willingness not to punish such a choice. The ultimate choice of scenario has been made by the Ministry, and should the unions contest the decision, there will be repercussions on educators either way. The Ministry is throwing the whole burden of a decision it should be taking, on unions: hybrid or leave children without an education? Hybrid or force parents into feeling they have to send their children to school, thus increasing the risk of contracting the virus? Double the work for the same salary, or risk having parents unjustifiably up in arms against educators for the umpteenth time. It is thus that the Ministry thinks it has wriggled out of a catch-22, and has washed its hands of the ultimate decisions which will be taken, thinking it will come out of all this smelling like roses.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term Hybrid, it entails having 2 lessons going on concurrently. One online with resources for those following from home, and one for the children you have face-to-face. Now imagine this scenario: ten children in class, the teacher monitors their entrance ensuring their hands are adequately sanitized, masks are worn and stay on, and all are in their place while at the same time letting in children who are in the virtual lobby, ensuring the technology required is functioning properly. Then the teacher has to ensure that the face-to-face children are following the lesson, and that those at home are on the same page, so the teacher doubles up with a resource for the online students and a more hands on explanation for the children. Throughout the teacher monitors the children in class, as well as those online. The teachers will then have to coordinate giving homework on the school platform, on the virtual classroom platform, and physically. Copies of handouts in hard copy for face-to-face and also upload the handout for the virtual and then when work starts rolling in, the teacher has to go through the virtual platform, email, and hardcopy pieces of work handed in. LSEs will be in the same predicament, with some students at home and some in class, and adaptations, and differentiation that have to be suited for the child’s individual learning style, both online and face-to-face. All of this in the time of a lesson, 35 minutes tops, repeated 8 or 9 times.
The UPE is not in favour of this kind of teaching. Our educators are not trained in any way to juggle virtual and face-to-face at the same time. They have been working on online teaching and are learning the ropes of how to manage an online class effectively, but asking these educators to do two distinct jobs in the space of time in which they would normally conduct one with very precise timing, is unreasonable. Double the resources, double the effort, while working through the stress of a pandemic, with protocols to follow, is bound to bring our educators to burnout before the term is over.
The UPE will always keep its members at the forefront of any decision it is asked to take, and will in no way jeopardize their health, be it physical or mental, nor will it be bullied into accepting having an untenable situation imposed on educators.