Government will make adjustments to its budget and conduct ‘means testing’ to ensure that those families who truly cannot afford the digital tools needed to navigate the new e-learning environment are not left behind.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley gave this assurance last night during a press briefing, following a meeting with the Social Partnership at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Emphasizing that she did not believe there could be two ‘Barbadoses’ where “one set of people have access to learning tools and the other set of people are left without”, Ms. Mottley said that Government would provide resources, namely digital tablets, for those who could not afford them.
While stressing that she did not normally subscribe to the concept of means testing, the Prime Minister said it was necessary on this occasion.
“We will have to agree that those families who can buy their own will continue to do so, and the Government will provide the resources for those who cannot do so. We are in the process of working that out with the Ministry of Education [but] we are still in the early days. We hope that everything will be ready for sure for the September term, to the extent that we can have people ready for some level in this term. We are working hard … but we are conscious it is just not a money issue; it is a supply and logistics issue because just as we were having problems with accessing ventilators, we are conscious that people are having problems with accessing tablets. Largely because everywhere across the world has been catapulted into an e-learning environment,” Ms. Mottley stated.
The Prime Minister said Barbados’ success had been predicated on its commitment to provide education to the masses.
This, she explained, was evident by the fact that at the beginning of the 20th Century the country boasted 200 primary schools, six secondary schools, and Codrington College, which delivered university-type education.
To do any less now “120 years later when the metrics as to what constitutes fair access to education has changed” would be to “drop the ball”, she emphasized.
Ms. Mottley disclosed that before COVID-19 emerged, Government was working towards e-learning, and was in discussions with countries such as Kenya to incorporate it at a later period. However, she acknowledged that the pandemic fast-tracked those plans.