Minister of Education St. Clair Jimmy Prince says that schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will not open on April 14, as scheduled.
He said that a review will be done after two weeks to determine whether students should return to the classroom.
Prince made the announcement as he debated the EC$74 million supplementary estimates which lawmakers went on to approve Tuesday night, two months after they passed the EC$1.2 billion Budget for 2020.
The additional monies are to be used in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No one can accurately predict what the days ahead will look like,” Prince told lawmakers.
“And given the fluid nature of things associated with this virus at this stage, the situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the rest of the world continues to evolve.”
He said that a consultation was held with various stakeholders, including the Teachers’ Union, the Ministry of Health officials, the principals’ associations and other entities.
It was mutually agreed that the opening of school on the scheduled date of April 14 “would not be in the best interest of our country in the midst of this global pandemic at this time,” Prince said.
He was speaking during a sitting of the national assembly in which Minister of Health, Senator Luke Browne confirmed that SVG had recorded its 8th case of the virus, which has claimed 82,000 lives internationally.
“We must note that circumstances have changed in our local context; the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has increased and this was not the situation prior to the closure of school.”
Schools in SVG closed one week early for the two-week Easter break and Prince said that since then, the situation has not changed for the better.
He said this is the case although the country has been managing the pandemic well and has had “studied leadership in this particular arena”.
“However, we don’t think that we should open school next week. The decision was made for students to remain at home for a further two weeks, in the first weeks in the first instance, and continue their learning through online modalities.
“The situation will be reassessed at the end of this period through further consultation with our stakeholders and a determination made in the interest of our beloved children, our teachers, and our country,” the education minister said.
“So the reopening of school strongly hinges on the guidance of health professionals within the Ministry of Health, and parents and guardians are, therefore, advised to keep their children at home until further notice,” Prince further stated.
“But, of course, remember that there are platforms that the Ministry of Education has devised whereby their children can continue to learn while they stay at home. Do not allow them to run wild. Parents and teachers, of course, would be collaborating in ensuring that we do not lose too much instructional time as a result of this pandemic.”
Prince also detailed the means through which the government will deliver educational materials through online platforms while classes remain suspended.