Castries: St Lucia is all set to reopen schools virtually from today (Monday) due to the ongoing crisis of COVID-19 in the region. About 4,000 laptops will be provided to students in need, announced Education Minister Shawn Edwards.
He stated that the decision to resort to the disseminated or blended methodology was concluded after consultations with various stakeholders.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced us to once again withdraw from what we had initially projected and so students must remain at home to take their lessons until such moment that health authorities and personnel from the Ministry of Education consider it safe to return to face to face student-teacher intercommunication
He emphasised that the explicit increment in the number of COVID-19 cases suggests that the distributed learning modality must be adobted, where schools will be conducted on virtual platforms for students with smart devices and internet connectivity.
Edward stated that when students do not own smart devices and internet infrastructure, educators will aim to make handouts, worksheets, and other related sets that students will engage at the house.
The Minister observed that hundreds of students in the school practice do not own a tablet or laptop or, in some cases, internet connectivity.
“This position of students not having tools to take advantage of the virtual training platform worries me tremendously as a minister and I have made it to be the subject of very robust conversations amongst education administrators and my cabinet associates,” he revealed.
On being apprised of the situation, Edward said that Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre, without respite instructed through the necessary channels and exercising the most transparent government-approved acquisition guidelines, that the Ministry of Education ‘makes open at the soonest, nearly four thousand laptops to students in need.’
He said on landing on island; the devices will initially be given amongst incoming form one students and form twos in the secondary school system.
“There are also other programmes afoot to obtain devices for primary school students as well, especially those in Grade Six. This is the direction in which the earth is moving and our students will not be left back,” the Minister said.
Edward recognised that COVID-19 has germinated a toll on the society and children have not been forborne or exempted.
“We will assure that the required supporting mechanisms are in place to support students retrieve socially, emotionally and academically,” he affirmed.
“There is nothing we aspire more as a government than a full-fledged reopening of schools where pupils can leave home and take their proper places in the classrooms that have been prepared for them. The school is the most cherished place for many of our students to contribute their day. Since the appearance of COVID, a significant number of our children, who have had to stay home in some cases unsupervised because their parents are at work, have befallen pray to unsavoury actions and in some situations been violated by people in whose care they were entrusted,” Edward explained.