Students will return to school from next Monday but in online classrooms only, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw announced Monday, saying the decision was driven by the recent surge in COVID-19 infections.
The Hilary Term was to restart on January 5, with some students returning to the classroom on a full-time basis. But two weeks later, as over 400 new confirmed cases emerged, Bradshaw said it was agreed that the virtual format was the best option at this time.
She told journalists: “We’ve been spending a lot of time in the Ministry of Education relooking the plans for reopening of school, whether in a full format or obviously in this case in a virtual format and of course we have leaned towards the virtual format going into a situation of online classes at this point in time simply because we recognize that from the Ministry of Health’s perspective it is important that we take time to make sure that the country gets a handle on these cases.”
Government now has to provide between 4,000 to 5,000 students with devices to allow students to take part in online classes, according to the education minister.
Bradshaw said: “We have taken this time to really just rethink and to pause and really go on a reset button to recognize that we have to reassess the number of devices that students had access to.
“Over the last term as we were getting ready to go back to the classroom environment a number of students may not have come forward for devices simply because they were doing a lot of face-to-face classes, so we had to get all of the data in place to determine whether or not students still needed devices and we estimated that we have about between 4,000 to 5,000 kids who may not still have access to a device or in some cases not have electricity or connectivity at their respective homes.
“The Government has made a decision to, in the interim, to be able to proceed to purchase those devices on behalf of those students to ensure that we can start school on January 18 in an online platform.”
Bradshaw had previously revealed Government was currently awaiting a shipment of 21,000 electronic devices from Kenya.
And while she maintained that it was still Government’s intention to do so, she said lengthy negotiations had resulted in some delays to the shipment.
Bradshaw said the retraining of teachers had already begun and while she expected some challenges next Monday, these would be addressed.
“We know that there are challenges, we know that perhaps as we start the online classes on Monday that they would still be some challenges, some teething issues. We’ve become accustomed to dealing with the issues as they present themselves,” Bradshaw said. (RB)