Scores of secondary school students and their parents were all smiles on Thursday, 10th, June 2022, during the presentation of laptop computers by the Government of Saint Lucia.
Students of forms 1 and 2 of 22 secondary schools around the island received laptops from respective parliamentary representatives, in fulfillment of a promise by the Saint Lucia Labour Party, then in opposition, to “immediately reinstate the One-Laptop per child programme” that was discontinued by the Allen Chastanet Administration.
Over 3,800 laptops were distributed at a cost totalling $2,945,000.00 to the government. But the expense is well worth it for the good of the nation’s children, the growth of the education system and the future of the entire country.
Whether it was by contrition or arrogance, the two parliamentarians of the opposition, former Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and MP for Choiseul/Saltibus, Hon. Bradley Felix, accepted the Labour Party Administration’s invitation to attend Thursday’s laptop presentation ceremony. The SLP Administration was happy to demonstrate before the two opposition MPs its determination to break with the partisan political victimization that the previous administration had practiced during its term in government from between June 2016 and July 2021. During this time, UWP MPs openly starved the opposition-controlled constituencies of state resources.
Students, their parents and guardians, educators and the public generally were very disappointed during the general election campaign when Dr. Gale Rigobert, then candidate for Micoud North, poured disdain on the SLP Government’s education policy of making laptops freely available to form 4 students of secondary schools.
In one of her lowest performances during the election campaign, Dr. Rigobert, then the presumed UWP Minister of Education screamed (in Kweyol) “ Laptops!! What do students stand to gain?” (ki gagne ki an sa?)
Once the UWP had won the election in June 2016 and Dr Rigobert became Minister, the One Laptop Per Child programme initiated by the SLP Administration was dismantled. As fate would have it, the downside of this reckless political decision set our children back tremendously, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic when face-to-face learning had to be suspended, and the school system shifted to online classes (or distributed learning).
Hundreds of school students found themselves at a disadvantage and lost valuable learning time because they either did not have electronic devices (smartphone, tablet or laptop) on which to participate in the online classes, or classrooms or their households could not afford the cost of broadband connection.
The onset of the pandemic increased the resolve of the Labour Party to not only resume the One Laptop Per Child programme, but to declare in its Election Manifesto 2021 that, “A Labour government considers ICT as an essential part of any modern educational infrastructure…”