Statement by MLA Lynne Lund on empty platitudes offered by the Education Minister at recent COVID briefing
During yesterday’s COVID briefing, I was disappointed that the Minister of Education only managed to offer platitudes for the challenges experienced by families, students, and teachers during the last two years of the pandemic.
Teachers and parents have been quite clear in speaking about their questions, fears, and anxieties over a safe return to school as we deal with the Omicron variant of COVID. Yesterday was an opportunity for the Minister to speak directly and plainly to Islanders about what plans she has developed to ensure the safety of every person involved in our education system. For some reason, the Minister passed on the chance to give a confident answer to those concerns.
A safe learning environment has been identified as priority number one by teachers, parents, and caregivers. Yet, the Minister has not made this a priority.
Many Islanders were shocked to learn during questions at the end of the briefing that the CPHO did not believe the measures government are putting in place are enough to provide a safe return to school. This is worrisome and begs the question: what is the Minister doing to make sure students are able to safely return on the 17th?
Numerous parents have questioned how they will be able to adapt to the pivot to online learning. Parents are having to scramble to find alternative arrangements for their work schedules to help with their child’s learning or adjust for a change in childcare options. The expectations we have placed on parents are neither patient nor kind.
When asked about how parents would have to adapt, the Minister suggested that families ask other family members to help. This is a privilege that not every Islander has. Not everyone has access to family members who could drop everything to help. What does she expect single parent families to do? How about those who do not have family nearby they could ask for help? What about families that do not have grandparents that could help?
Equally as important to note is the failure of the Minister to consult with those she is adding extra responsibility to. It seems once again the Minister did not consult with the PEI Teachers’ Federation or other stakeholders who are affected by decisions she is making.
A responsible, concerned government would include their partners and stakeholders in the decision-making process to achieve the best possible outcomes. It would not simply dictate and demand compliance. It means going to the partners, listening to them, and working with them to develop a plan that meets their needs and the needs of all Islanders.
Teachers are stressed and concerned. Parents are left worried and confused. Students are yet again facing a major disruption in their learning. The Minister has the responsibility to provide the tools, assurances, and leadership necessary. We are not seeing that here and that is unacceptable.
Lynne Lund, MLA Summerside-Wilmot
Official Opposition Critic for Education and Lifelong Learning