Schools in Saint Lucia will reopen virtually on Monday as a result of the current situation with COVID-19 and Education Minister Shawn Edward has announced that almost 4,000 laptop computers will be made available to students in need.
He said the decision to resort to the distributed or blended methodology was arrived at after consultation with various stakeholders
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced us to once again depart from what we had initially planned and so students must remain at home to receive their lessons until such time that health authorities and personnel from the Ministry of Education deem it safe to return to face to face student teacher interaction,” Edward stated in an address broadcast Sunday night on the National Television Network (NTN).
He explained that the sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases means that the distributed learning modality must be resorted to, where classes will be conducted on virtual platforms for students with smart devices and internet connectivity.
Edward said in instances where students do not possess smart devices and internet infrastructure, teachers will endeavour to prepare handouts, worksheets, and other relevant packages that students will engage at home.
The Minister observed that there are hundreds of students in the school system who do not possess a tablet or laptop computer or internet connectivity.
“This situation of students not having devices to take advantage of the virtual learning platform concerns me tremendously as minister and I have caused it to be the subject of very robust discussions amongst education administrators and my cabinet colleagues,” he disclosed.
Edward said on being apprised of the situation, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre without delay instructed through the requisite channels and employing the most transparent government approved procurement guidelines, that the Ministry of Education ‘makes available at the soonest, almost four thousand laptop computers to students in need.’
He said on arrival on island, the devices will first be distributed amongst incoming form one students and form twos in the secondary school system.
“There are also other initiatives afoot to secure devices for primary school students as well, particularly those in Grade Six. This is the direction in which the world is moving and our students will not be left behind,” the Minister declared.
Edward acknowledged that COVID-19 has taken a toll on the society and children have not been spared or exempted.
“We will ensure that the necessary supporting mechanisms are in place to help students recover socially, emotionally and academically,” he asserted.
“There is nothing we desire more as a government, than a full fledged reopening of schools where students can leave home and take their rightful places in the classrooms that have been prepared for them. The school is the safest place for many of our students to spend their day. Since the advent 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 fallen pray to unsavory activities and in some instances been violated by individuals in whose care they were entrusted,” Edward revealed.
The Minister’s full address appears below: