In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training is meeting with parents/guardians of Barbadian students in The People’s Republic of China to address their concerns.
Minister Santia Bradshaw held the first set of meetings with parents and guardians on Monday and Tuesday this week to discuss how the Ministry, through the Chinese Embassy and the Barbados Embassy in Beijing, could assist students in the East Asian country.
Parents got the opportunity to directly address their queries to Barbados’ Ambassador to China, Francois Jackman; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (MFAFT), Simone Rudder and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George.
They were mostly concerned about how soon their children/wards would be able to return home.
Minister Bradshaw pointed out that the Government of Barbados was being guided by information coming from the World Health Organization and Chinese authorities and therefore could not go into affected areas to extract students. She, however, assured parents that “Barbados is going to do all it can to ensure students are safe”.
Many of the parents emphasized that they were in constant contact with their children and pointed out that they were in no danger of running out of food, or other supplies. They also lauded the Barbados Embassy in China for its efforts in ensuring students were well taken care of.
Additionally, the parents of the three Barbadian students -19-year-old Elijah Cave, 23-year-old Jevon Hercules, and 25-year-old Alexandra Payne – who are still in Wuhan, in the Hubei Province, the epicentre of the outbreak, explained that they were in good health and spirits, despite not being able to leave because of restrictions by Chinese authorities, who are trying to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
One of the students, Elijah, is located on a university campus in Wuhan, while Jevon and Alexandra are staying off-campus.
The Education Minister noted that some students had returned to Barbados from other parts of China, and were in quarantine. Persons entering Barbados from affected regions are being quarantined for 14 days.
Additionally, the Ministry is ensuring that the three students in Wuhan receive counselling to help them cope under the circumstances. They are also in contact with medical officials in Barbados.
Ambassador Jackman explained that the embassies of CARICOM countries were working together to get supplies, if the need arose, to students in China. He added that the embassy was also in constant contact with students.
He further disclosed that universities across China had established hotlines and facilities to provide students with meals as well as basic supplies, including masks and surgical gloves.
Parents were told that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had placed all of its resources at the disposal of Barbadians in China. PS in the MFAFT, Ms. Rudder, also urged students who are not currently registered with the Barbados Embassy in Beijing to do so in order to receive assistance.
Alex’s mum, Michelle Payne, who appeared in an article in one section of the Press recently, and was irate about a perceived lack of supplies for her daughter, said her tone in the article was based on a misunderstanding of some information she received from a third party.
She said she now understood that the information conveyed to her was misinterpreted.
The three students staying in Wuhan know each other and keep in regular contact. Their parents and guardians confirmed that they had access to food, despite rumors that they had no supplies.
Jevon’s parents, who attended the meeting, said their son went over to Wuhan from Xiamen University in Fujian to visit Alexandra, who is a family friend. However, the city was locked down before he was able to return to the university.
Elijah’s parents shared that they spoke with their son at his university in Wuhan “two to three times a day”, and were satisfied that he was okay.
They also lauded the efforts of the Barbados embassy in Beijing in keeping parents informed and aiding the students. There are over 50 Barbadians currently studying in China.
Minister Bradshaw has sent out a clarion call urging all parents/guardians who have children studying in the People’s Republic of China, and who she has not yet met with, to make contact with the Ministry by calling 535-0610.
When calling, they should indicate the name of the student and provide their contact information.