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MINISTER SHAWN EDWARD: School Reopening Rooted in Careful Analysis

Minister for Education Shawn Edward has defended the reopening of school at this time despite objections in certain quarters.

Some parents and critics of the government recently took to social media to express their disappointment with the decision.

Educaton Minister, Shawn Edward
Educaton Minister, Shawn Edward

However Minister Edward noted that the reopening was rooted in “careful analysis” of the situation in country.

“There are some in our midst who are of the view that we should not be opening up for physical classes at this juncture; that assertion is wrong. Our children need to be in school where they rightfully belong and for many school is the safest place to be. There will be challenges along the way as we strive for a full reintegration of students across the board,” Edward said.

Students in key grade levels (kindergarten, grade six, forms four and five) returned to the classroom setting on Monday and whilst some individuals do not support the decision, Edward stated that tough decisions have to be made for the good of the country.

According to the minister, there are a number of issues surrounding the distributed learning approach and during his last address on September 12 2021, he said he was fully aware of the uncertainties that confronted the education sector.

“Whereas I was pleased that school was reopening, I was also cognizant of the range of issues surrounding the distributed learning approach. At that time, the number of active COVID cases in country was in excess of 2,400. During the period of initial reopening, the Ministry of Education continued to monitor the health situation and engaged stakeholders with a view to making the necessary preparations for face-to-face teacher-student interaction once the conditions were deemed safe by the Ministry of Health,” Edward stated.

On Monday October 11, Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs Hon Moses Jn Baptiste announced that the Cabinet of Ministers had acted on the advice of the National COVID-19 Management Committee, giving the approval that allowed for the phased face-to-face opening of schools for the selected grades as of October 18.

However, Edward stated that “in an effort to allow the stakeholders involved including parents and teachers to adequately prepare, the Ministry of Education found it necessary to sanction the phased face-to-face reopening effective October 25, 2021. In other words, the health authorities gave the all clear for face-to-face classes to resume on Monday October 18, however, the Ministry of Education in its wisdom opted for Monday October 25, so as to allow all concerned to prepare.”

He said that educators believe face-to-face schooling is the better option as it allows for more constructive engagements between students and teachers. Edward also stated that government will do everything in its power to ensure that students are not left behind.

“We note the dynamism of the current environment and the new shape of global education. We shall continue along the path of strengthening our e-education eco system by rolling out new initiatives and restoring previously conceived ones such as the one laptop per child programme,” he said, adding that in the coming weeks government will intensify its efforts at sourcing more devices for students and teachers in the school system.

“It is anticipated that during this academic year we will provide between seven and ten thousand devices to teachers and students in the school system. As the Ministry continues its thrust in making the education system one which is more relevant, more inclusive, more equitable and one which embraces and leverages new methods of instruction and learning, we shall continue to strengthen the other components of the system including improved and more equitable access to WiFi broadband and the provision of training opportunities for re-tooling and upscaling our educators,” he noted.

According to the minister, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan), the US Embassy, and the A&M University in Texas, government will be training a cadre of teachers in cyber security and cyber safety with a view to protecting  students and teachers from the threats that exist online.

Edward also stressed on the importance of following protocols and said that it “cannot be business as usual.”

“Let us be creative and innovative and not let our guard down as we seek to ensure that our nation’s children are not further disadvantaged. Parents we know the challenges at your end, however, I urge you to be patient. I implore you to be steadfast in supporting your children in whatever modality they are engaged in be it online, face-to-face or the utilization of teacher prepared packages. The sacrifices that you make will go a long way in your child’s development,” the minister said.

“I cannot overemphasize the commitment to safeguarding the health and safety of all students, teachers and staff. We solicit the support of all involved to ensure that the protocols delineated in the education continuity plan are maintained. We also urge parents, guardians, students and the wider community to continue observing the prescribed health protocols as compliance will ensure that our students are not further disadvantaged,” he added.

“I am hoping that by next week we will be in a position to announce the commencement of face-to-face classes for all remaining students. The situation at hand calls for us to (be) calm yet focused. We will not be deterred neither shall we cower from the tough decisions to be made for the good of this country and ultimately for the benefit of our children,” Minister Edward said.

1 Comment

  1. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo; spoken as a true educator.

    This is the kind of intrepidity necessary to forge innovative paths of teaching and learning through the daunting wilderness of a pandemic

    An enduring tenet of education practice and administration teaches that effective education is a product of trial and error; observation and evaluation and the forging through to initiate practices discovered to produce effective teaching and learning.

    Mr. Edward, yours is the vision of the rare policy maker to whom the education of the nation is entrusted.

    The pandemic presents a (as it were- tabula raza ) for educators to craft fresh modalities of teaching and learning and to carry into the future tool kits of teaching and learning applicable to varied contingencies of our changing times.

    Never sell yourselves short. The education provided to our St. Lucian students bests that of most first world countries.

    With visionaries like our St. Lucian educators manning the profession we will certainly succeed in making our education system the envy of great nations.

    Make it happen. GOD bless St.Lucia.

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