Education Minister Shawn Edward has defended the decision to allow the phased return to the physical classroom as of Monday, declaring that this country’s children need to be in school where they rightfully belong.
“There are some in our midst who are of the view that we should not be opening up for physical classes at this juncture- that assertion is wrong. Our decision to reopen is rooted in careful analysis of the situation in country by the competent authority,” the Minister said in a statement broadcast on Sunday night. Edward said that for many, school is the safest place to be.
The Minister said he could not overemphasise the commitment to safeguarding the health and safety of all students, teachers, and staff and reiterated the need for all involved to ensure that the protocols in the Education Continuity Plan are maintained.
However, he acknowledged that there would be challenges in the reintegration of students across the board.
In this regard, he was hopeful that an announcement could be made by next week regarding the commencement of face-to-face classes for all remaining students.
“The situation at hand calls for us to be calm yet focussed,” Edward declared.
“We will not be deterred, neither shall we cower from the tough decisions to be made for the good of this country and ultimately for the benefit of our children,” he stated.
According to Edward, the consensus among educators is that face-to-face schooling allows for more constructive engagement between students and teachers.
“We are therefore pleased that conditions are more favourable to allow some of the critical grade levels, namely kindergarten, Grade Six, Form Four, and Form Five, to return,” he stated. But he said it cannot be business as usual.
“Let us be creative and innovative and not let our guard down as we week to ensure that our nation’s children are not further disadvantaged,” Edward advised.
He acknowledged the challenges parents face while urging them to be patient and steadfast in supporting their children in whatever modalities the youngsters are engaged.
In addition, Edward acknowledged the role technology plays in delivering quality education and disclosed that the government would intensify efforts to source more devices for teachers and students in the coming weeks.
“It is anticipated that during this academic year, we will provide between seven and ten thousand devices to teachers and students in the school system,” he explained.
Edward also said the Ministry would continue to strengthen other system components, including improved and more equitable access to WiFi broadband and training for re-tooling and up-scaling educators.
In collaboration with Taiwan, the US Embassy, and the A&M University in Texas, one such initiative will be training for a cadre of teachers in cyber security and cyber safety to protect students and teachers from existing online threats.
Edward said the programme also intends to make teachers and students more responsible users of technology.