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SLNYC COMMITS TO SUPPORT COVID-19 RESPONSE; CALLS FOR AN EDUCATION SECTOR CONTINGENCY PLAN

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has evidently affected the way we educate. The Education Sector has been impacted with mandatory school closures here and abroad, displacing students and educators. As an organisation, the Saint Lucia National Youth Council (SLNYC) shares a great interest in matters regarding education and hence commit to partnerships which work towards the best interest of St Lucian students.

Given the current reality and challenges posed by COVID-19, we believe in the implementation of short and medium-term interventions addressing widespread student access to virtual learning and use of ICTs to deliver instruction and consistently engage students amid school closures.

The SLNYC is pleased to have convened a virtual meeting with the Chief Education Officer, Dr Fiona Mayer to receive updates on the Ministry’s response efforts and put forward recommendations to benefit students at all levels. During this meeting, the SLNYC was briefed on the Post-Easter Break Instructional Program which seeks to engage parents and teachers for effective virtual learning. The programme is guided by individual school workplans and should include a “community reach” component to cater to students with internet connectivity challenges. Additionally, it’s expected that social-distancing measures may have a negative effect on the mental health of many students. To address such cases, school counsellors have been tasked to provide relief and guidance where necessary.

Following previous calls for the Ministry of Education to explore the zero-rating of particular educational websites, the SLNYC commends Digicel St Lucia and Flow St Lucia for their assistance in zero-rating several essential sites. The following is a list of zero-rated websites provided by Digicel St Lucia for access by students:

• www.scholastic.com

• www.brainpop.com

• www.abcmouse.com

• www.boomlearning.com

• www.kidsdiscover.com

• www.learninghub.online

• www.education.govt.lc

After reviewing the Post-Easter Break Instructional Program, the SLNYC made the following recommendations:

1. The Minister of Education should launch a study to determine the percentage student domestic access to an endpoint device and steady internet connection.

2. Encourage coordination between school counsellors and community leaders (social workers, social transformation officers) to connect students to the necessary psychosocial support.

3. Schools facilitate the distribution of school-feeding programme ingredients to the families of underprivileged students.

4. Authorities upon resumption of regular operations, must seek to engage stakeholders in the development of an Education Sector Contingency Plan to mitigate the negative impact of future school closures on the sector.

The Saint Lucia National Youth Council welcomes the Ministry’s cooperation in matters relating to Education. This partnership will add value to initiatives being developed by the SLNYC to engage and educate youth from home. These initiatives include the following:

• COVIDTalks – Twitter Townhall on the COVID-19 impact.

• ‘My Covid-19 Story’ – Video story-telling competition open to students.

• Virtual “Chill Chat” – Online seminar presenting response efforts of key stakeholders.

• Student Highlights/Features – Online recognition of students and school clubs.

• Student Dialogues – Online discourse on mental health, virtual learning, social distancing.

For effective remote learning, the SLNYC calls on parents to play an active role by ensuring that students receive adequate guidance and encouragement. The Youth Council commends the efforts of principals, teachers and other school staff for the support provided to the nation’s students and hopes for the successful delivery of the Post-Easter Break Instructional Program.

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