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Rabain backs acting minister’s decision to aim for new school term to start on schedule

Diallo Rabain, the education minister (File photograph)

The education minister has backed decisions made in his absence after schools returned on a staggered basis after teachers had to wait for coronavirus test results.

Diallo Rabain apologised to parents for the late notice that classrooms would not open to pupils as scheduled after the Christmas holiday.

But he said that education officials were right to aim for a return to classroom teaching and that he would have done the same.

Mr Rabain, who was speaking on Magic 102.7 on Monday, insisted: “I stand behind the decisions that were made back then during my absence.”

An acting ministerial appointment was approved for Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, to cover the education minister from December 30, 2021 to January 16.

Seven primary schools opened for specific classes on January 5 – although all public school pupils had been expected to return to their desks.

The remaining primary schools as well as middle and senior schools were unable to welcome back children because not enough staff had been cleared for the coronavirus.

Mr Rabain highlighted that earlier talks with the Government’s Molecular Diagnostic and Research Laboratory resulted in a timetable for teachers, who were due back on January 4, to be tested over January 1, 2 and 3.

He explained: “That was the weekend that Omicron really hit us hard.

“There was a ton more testing than was normally taking place so that then forced the results to be delayed and that’s where the knock-on effect came.

“By the time we got to Monday before school started it was ‘OK, we might be getting the results back in time for school but let’s wait and see’ so we could see what schools could open, what schools would be impacted.

“From my understanding – of course, I was off island at that time – but notice went out the day before school was to open.”

The education minister said that parents were told then which schools did or did not have enough test results back to welcome pupils.

Mr Rabain added: “I do apologise to all of our parents … they were saying that was done really, really late but our main focus was to have schools open.

“We’re not going to give up on that the first time there is a bit of difficulty, we’re going to try and push through that and try and do what we can to ensure that our students get that in-class learning, so it happened that way, so that we had a staggered start.

“But I do believe that we did the right thing of having schools open and waiting to see if those results would come.

“I’m happy that the department and the ministry and the acting minister at the time stuck to their guns and went ahead and moved in that direction.

“Even if I was on island as the substantive minister, I would have done the same thing.”

Carika Weldon, the Government’s science adviser and MDL executive director, who has quit her post, revealed earlier that she had warned that thousands of extra tests before the reopening of public schools was unworkable.

She explained: “I was told that education had to be pushed forward and we had to make it work.”

Dr Weldon added that she knew by December 29 that the maths was “pretty simple, and we didn’t have enough staff to do it”.

Ms Furbert, when she was the acting education minister last week, announced that a certified clear antigen test result would be accepted for the return of teachers and pupils after a school break.

She added that a rollout of at-home antigen testing for public schools would start this week.

Mr Rabain said on Monday that the screening process was to help spot the coronavirus “at the front end”.

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Published January 19, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated January 19, 2022 at 7:57 am)

Rabain backs acting minister’s decision to aim for new school term to start on schedule

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