MOE working on guidelines to hopefully prevent re-occurrence of drug laced candy ordeal
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- April 26, 2023
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Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, says the entire cabinet was outraged when news of the incident broke. Prime Minister John Briceno has since ordered a full investigation. The Ministry of Education is now hoping to set proper guidelines to ensure there is no repeat of yesterday’s public health crisis. The ordeal affected eighteen students at St. Luke’s Methodist school and sent parents across the city into a panic. Fortunately, the children did not suffer any major injuries or health complications. Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, explained that the welfare of students and teachers is his ministry’s main priority. He says that his ministry is now working on drafting an adequate guiding principle to minimize, if not eliminate, the possibility of a reoccurrence.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “This incident allows me to make two fundamental points. One we have created within the Ministry over the last year and a half a student welfare unit within the Ministry of Education because we appreciate that there are many challenges that our students face on a daily basis and that whole student welfare unit, the whole idea of that unit is for us to engage more meaningfully with the community, with parents, with families and all the stakeholders in education but primarily at the community level to engage with our students and their families to find ways in which we can support them. So that Student Welfare Unit is critically important when we talk about this type of incident. How can we support our students ? And then the program the National Healthy Start feeding program that we launched two years ago again critically important. We talk about this all the time you know very often our students are not eating properly at school. You know apparently some of these students were eating gummies lunch time and that kind of thing and we know our children they will eat sweets and treats and so but it’s critically important for us to develop and expand this national healthy start feeding program across the country. We’ve started it in a number of schools, we’re expanding it but this incident highlights in a very broad way the need for us to have good feeding programs in all our schools so that our children even though we can’t stop them from eating candy and all of that we know that will happen whether it’s at school or when they leave school, we try to provide them with nutritious meals or at least a nutritious meal while they’re at school.”
Minister Fonseca added that while it was an isolated event, the incident does bring into focus, the need for school vendors to undergo more vigorous vetting. He says that each school should now be working to establish a school safety plan as well as a vetting process for persons wishing to do business in front of their institutions.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “School vendors that’s a critically important issue as well. You know we tend to have a very lax approach to school vendors, every school decides who will sell some, some vendors are selling on the campus, some the school say no you can’t come on the campus but you can sell outside at the school gates. So I think this highlights the need for us to have a more effective policy on school vendors. You know many of them the ones who sell food have to get a food handlers certificate but there may be loopholes there where some are selling you’re just selling juice, you sell juice, you sell orange, plum and that kind of thing or sweets and so you say “Oh I’m not handling food.” because you know technically you might not be selling tacos or meat pie or you know or food rice and beans or so you might not be but you’re still handling food, you’re still handling products that will consumed by children who will put that into their mouth. So I think it’s important for us to recognize and acknowledge that where those loopholes exist in terms of those school vendors all of us will have to work together the schools, Ministry of Education, City Council and the Ministry of Health the people who actually certify these food handlers certificates to see if there are any loopholes there and if there are how can we close them and address them so that we ensure at all times that our children and our teachers who buy from these vendors as well the teachers too because even teachers I understand consumed some of the gummies yesterday. So we want to ensure that at all times they are safe and that they are consuming safe product.”