26 Sept. 2021
Weekly Current (archived version)
How concerned should we be about racial divisions in the Cayman Islands education system? Government extends mask mandate to private schools. US public health experts talk school safety during COVID. ‘Introducing’ the new director of Miss Nadine’s preschool.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
Could the structure of our country’s education system be fostering racial divisions in younger generations that have not previously been a hallmark of Cayman Islands society?
We explore that question in a story that took months to put together, primarily because we had a hard time getting anyone to talk about it — well, on the record. (We reckon we got ‘no comments’ or ‘no responses’ from more than 50 people while pursuing this story.)
In the end, we obtained thoughtful commentary from Cayman International School Director Jim Urquhart, local historian Roy Bodden, UCCI Associate Professor Christopher Williams and an anonymous Caymanian parent.
We’ll keep it short in this newsletter, because we strongly encourage you to read the story in its entirety. But here’s the gist:
Usually when we talk about segregation in Cayman schools, we are referring to Caymanians vs. non-Caymanians. However, it is nearly impossible not to notice significant contrasts in the physical appearance of student populations of different schools, namely skin colour.
Put plainly, some private schools in Cayman appear to be overwhelmingly white, while some public schools (and some private schools) appear to be overwhelmingly black.
Our story looks at the history of racial divisions (or arguably, lack thereof) in local schools, considers some reasons for the present situation and explores the potential consequences of putting our young people in racially segregated silos.
As one parent said, “Provided that all the children can go to school together, there is still a mechanism for intergroup camaraderie and assimilation … But if the schools themselves segregate, then society loses that critical tool in building bridges across divisions that might otherwise arise.”
***Editor’s Note: We know that many people regard the issue of race in Cayman as a sensitive one. We know that others think the issue is largely irrelevant. We want to hear from you. For this topic, we will grant anonymity to anyone who requests it. Contact editor Patrick Brendel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 326-5064 (call or WhatsApp).***
You may have been caught by surprise by government’s mandate that students in all public and private schools wear masks starting Friday morning, 24 Sept. … that is, unless you were up at about 11.30pm the night before, when the government sent out public notice of the change in regulations.
The late-night announcement came after a two-hour press conference where PACT leaders talked about how they were going to issue new regulations in response to recent community outbreaks of COVID-19, including one that affected 18 students at George Town Primary School. What officials didn’t talk much about during the press conference, however, was what those regulations would actually be.
As it turns out, the new regulations in part call for all students over the age of 5 to wear masks inside school buildings and classrooms, and also on school buses.
During the press conference, Premier Wayne Panton said future COVID cases in a school wouldn’t automatically mean the school has to close, and that they are trying to shift the focus to increased testing and individual isolation.
For context, the US Centers for Disease Control recommends masks for all students age 2 and older. Canadian health officials recommend masks for all students age 6 and older, as well as children between 2 and 5 as long as they are being supervised. The minimum masking age of 2 aligns with other countries such as Japan … although it departs from the World Health Organisation’s minimum age of 6. The UK has eased up on its masks-in-schools guidance as the rates of vaccination and acquired immunity have risen, although it could tighten up again if there are sharp increases in cases driven by the Delta variant.
Earlier in the week, we contacted two public health experts in the US for their advice on keeping students and faculty healthy during COVID.
Dr. Tina Tan (a paediatric infectious diseases specialist) and Sara B. Johnson (a paediatrics professor) were on the same page, saying that the top priority is to keep in-person schools open as long as the environments are safe.
To keep schools safe, Dr. Tan and Johnson said masks for all students and vaccinations for everyone who can get them are vital. In addition, they supported measures such as social distancing, handwashing, good ventilation of classrooms, cleaning of high-touch areas, limiting crowds, and protocols for testing and tracing COVID cases.
Dr. Tan said, “Virtual learning for the most part is NOT an effective solution. In-person school is critical for social and emotional development.”
And be sure to check out this week’s episode of EdBeat. Patrick Brendel of the Cayman Current and April Cummings of Cayman Life TV discuss the stories on racial divisions in education and the new mask mandates for local schools, among other things.
The new Director of Miss Nadine’s Preschool and Jack and Jill Nursery is a familiar face.
Stepping into the role is Delores Thompson, the longtime principal of the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre.
In an interview with Cayman Current journalist Kayla Young, Thompson talks about the school (which is operated by NCVO) and plans for the future.
“We’re trying to make sure that people can have access to a good education for their children, even if they don’t have the money to send them to the more expensive schools,” Thompson said. “High-quality, early childhood education is something that every child deserves, regardless of their socioeconomic background, where their parents work or how much money they [make].”
***Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, we’ve had to postpone our first ‘Current Event’ which had been scheduled for 29 Sept. We’re still going over the fine print of government’s new COVID-19 regulations, but we’ll coordinate with our event partners and sponsors, in the hopes of moving forward as soon as possible. … Stay tuned … Supporters of the Current get first dibs on all opportunities to attend future events. Become an Individual Supporter of the Current by making a donation in any amount.***
More from the Current
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- Cayman Compass ($): Primary school mask mandate counter to international advice
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Schools’ saliva test compliance will drive testing, reopening
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Minister laments number of families agreeing to testing
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Private school to move to remote classes due to Covid-19
- Jamaica Gleaner: The UWI defies pandemic test to move up in world education ranking
- The Guardian (UK): The ‘new normal’ at England’s universities doesn’t have to be so bad | Kimi Chaddah
- The Guardian (UK): Oxbridge student groups to be exempt from free speech law
The Week Ahead
- Viewpoint: Alric Lindsay on the human brain, perception and prejudice
- Analysis: School enrolment data, Sept. 2021
- EdBeat: Episode 16