MADAME ESTATE, Sint Maarten – While preparing this Press Release with the intention to reach out to our members (teaching and non teaching staff) at all schools to express our concerns to them as educators of the health crisis caused by COVID-19, WITU learned of the decision taken by the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten Ms. Silveria Jacobs to close all school on Dutch Sint Maarten as of Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 for the period of two weeks.
Over the past days we have had a number of our members with questions and concerns and WITU regret not being included in meetings with the EOC to be able to provide our members with insights and recommendations or to come up with appropriate responses to the pandemic in education. WITU strongly believes that the strategy to stop the spread of the virus must prioritize health and safety of our teachers and students also. Occupational Health and Safety in the Workplace should be checked and implemented at all cost because it is important to prioritize the health and safety of students, teachers and education support staff.
The above is the reason why our members became very worried by the statement and decision of our Minister of Education, Mr. Ardwell Irion not to close the school earlier. WITU therefore commend the board of the AVE chairlady Drs. Peggy-Ann Dros-Richardson for the public announcement to close the doors of the NIPA based on the guidance of the WHO.As union we know the impact and disruption that the closure of schools can have on students, but again measures need to be put in place to ensure that the response and responsibility are comprehensive and unified across the entire education system. WITU encourage goverment to work with educators and their union to find ways in which the education process can continue after the temporary closure.According to the general Secretary of Education International, Mr. David Edwards:”
It is vital to ensure that this health crisis does not become an education crisis….This crisis must not be used to undermine the right of all children, youth and adult to quality education.”On behalf of the board of the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU)