The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will purchase a tablet for each secondary school and Grade 6 student, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves announced on Sunday.
He made the announcement on WE FM as he was asked whether the April 13 reopening of schools was still possible amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Ministry of Education has to talk again to the parents and the teachers and do an assessment and I would expect that that assessment would be done in this week. Clearly it has to be done this week,” he said.
The prime minister went on to say that the Supplementary Bill to be debated in Parliament on Tuesday includes EC$4 million to purchase tablets for students.
He said the devices will be used “to facilitate them with instruction by way of distance.
“And we are going to order them very quickly, just in case, because the exams are going to be postponed. And there are facilities, which are available already for teachers to conduct classes with students,” he said.
Philbert John, a host of the programme who is also a deputy principal, said he was concerned about “at-risk students” whose attendance was sparse.
The educator said that reaching these students during this period would be difficult.
The prime minister responded:
“One way I will think of to reach them, P John, there are two ministries which have to work closely: the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Development…”
He said that if 10% of a school’s student population are disadvantaged or at risk, that number is not beyond the staff, in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Development “to go to these homes.
“It’s not an impossible number. So the teacher may be at home because school is not being kept, but it doesn’t mean that learning and teaching can’t go on even though the school is not formally kept. I talk about the contact you are making with at-risk students but also through the various platforms which you have.”
John said that the students of which he was speaking won’t have access to the platforms.
“But there are ideas how we could reach them,” John said.
The prime minister reiterated that his government was going to buy each of these students a tablet.
“We going to buy a device for them,” he said, adding that they will have to see the closest point to an internet connection to facilitate those students,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a national address last Wednesday, opposition Leader Godwin Friday said that as the new school term nears, “we must prepare parents, teachers and students for what may come.
“Two weeks away is a long time when we talk about the COVID-19 pandemic. Much will change during that time. It may be necessary to extend the closure,” he said.
Schools closed one week early for the Easter break.
“Consideration must be given to delivering instructions remotely, via the internet and other means. This will require new software tools and equipment for teachers and students and training to use them.
“When schools eventually reopen, we must ensure that cleaning, sanitizing and handwashing supplies are provided to them and that they all have sufficient water to enable teachers and students to follow recommended hygiene practices.”