COVID-19 update and press conference at Ilaro Court – January 28, 2021. (PMO)

Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, has reassured that the Ministry is continuing to ensure students and teachers can fully participate in the virtual classroom.

Since the upsurge in COVID-19 cases earlier this month, education officials made the decision to move all classes for primary and secondary schools online.

To date, the Ministry has been focused on providing devices to students who may not have been in position to participate in class because of a lack thereof.

Minister Bradshaw gave an update on this process during last evening’s COVID-19 update, noting that devices were also being made available to teachers.

“We have some teachers who’ve been working at the schools because they may not have access to devices.  We’re still working on getting all of the devices on to the island and that process is ongoing.  But many of the devices have already been distributed to the ITCs.  We’ve had to configure them.

“We have [more] coming into the island, so over the course of the next few days, and certainly even during the lockdown, the anticipation is that we will have the devices configured and be able to distribute to students and to teachers, who may not have devices at this point in time,” she explained.

The Education Minister also disclosed that she had met with the teachers’ unions and other stakeholders within the education sector to further discuss the way forward.

Acknowledging the difficulties posed by the pandemic, she emphasised that the objective was to ensure children were still able to have an education.

“I’m grateful to all teachers and principals who’ve been working really, really hard over the last few months to kind of grapple with technology, and include that in the classroom because they’ve been thrust into this environment through no fault of their own. But they really have been embracing all that we have been trying to offer to them in education.

“And, I know we have the support across the system of those teachers who just don’t want to see children who were falling behind before, falling behind even more during this difficult time,” she stated.

Minister Bradshaw also responded to concerns about the supervision of the school plants during this period.  She stated that they were operating with “skeleton staff” for security and maintenance purposes. However, she made it clear that efforts were made to protect high-risk employees.

According to the Education Minister, principals would be working with ancillary staff “to ensure that those who may have co-morbidity challenges are obviously taken out of the rotation, and perhaps other younger persons without any challenges can fill in for them”.

Minister Bradshaw added that those who could work remotely would be allowed to do so.

nya.phillips@barbados.gov.bb

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