The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers has been following very meticulously the decision-making processes, which the Ministry of Education has been engaging in, with regards to the reopening of schools. The latest piece of news, in which the Prime Minister himself announced that Skolasajf will open its doors to our children, caused the union to feel it should express its reservations publically.
To say that the union was baffled by the lack of information and communication by the Ministry on the matter, is an understatement. The Ministry has made no contact with the union to inform it of any protocols intending to keep our schools COVID-free, and this lack of consultation cannot be expected to be received nonchalantly on our end, trusting in the bona fide and good practice of the Ministry.
The nature of Skolasajf is not conducive to the maintenance of the regulations on social distancing, yet no clarification has been put forward as to how this obstacle should be overcome. Those expected to work within the structures have not been informed of any new expectations, regulations or measures. Nothing has been announced regarding the provision and use of protective gear and facilities, nor has any light been shed on class sizes or additional procedures and measures that will need to be in place from day 1.
How will our educators be expected to work? How will their roles differ from the original job description? How will feeding and cleaning duties be conducted? How will our LSEs be able to maintain a safe distance in full accordance with the recommendations on social distancing? These are but a few of the questions which the union cannot help but ask itself, and since no solid answer has been given to date, the UPE can only express its dissent at opening Skolasajf to the public.
The union expects the Ministry to initiate communication immediately, informing the union of the protocols which will be in place on the opening day of Skolasajf. If these protocols are not presented, or if they are not satisfactory, the union will instruct its members to not attend Skolasajf, and resign from their posts, so as to safeguard their own wellbeing as well as that of their families at home.
The union will not sit and watch waiting to see if the Ministry is going to treat our educators and children like Guinea pigs in a petri dish scenario which might lead to an increase in infection rate. All the union wants is to ensure that our educators are being offered a safe working environment, and whether or not this can be done is yet to be established. If it is deemed that Skolasajf will be unable to guarantee the health and safety of our educators, our children and their respective families, the union will be compelled to instruct its members to opt out completely.