(St. Lucia News Online) — Schools begin today, Monday, April 20 for all primary and secondary school students through virtual means only.
But there is a major hiccup: not all students and teachers will have devices, particularly laptops and tablets, to receive and submit instructions.
Political Leader of the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) Philip J. Pierre said, had the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) government continued with the SLP government’s one-computer-per-child initiative, this issue would have been avoided.
Below is a statement from Piere, who is also the opposition leader, about the issue. The statement was posted on the SLP’s official Facebook page on Sunday, April 19, 2020.
The government has announced that there is a partial opening of schools tomorrow but not a physical opening. I take that to mean that there will be teaching but through virtual means. In short, children and teachers will need devices tablets or laptops to receive their instructions. Announcements have been made for teachers to prepare to teach and students to be available for online messages.
While this may sound noble, forward-thinking and progressive, and makes for great UWP propaganda and public relations, I ask the question how many children will really be able to access these lessons because of either the lack of computers or access to the internet.
I think it is necessary to recap where our country was regarding computers for students when the Saint Lucia Labour Party was voted out in June 2016.
The first set of computers approximately 4000 was received in August 2013 and distributed to students in Form 4.
The second batch of computers, 7000 received from Venezuela, was distributed to Forms 3 and 4 in November 2014.
The third set comprising of 4000 laptops, 1500 desktops, 600 projectors distributed in Form 3. The desktops and projectors were made available to individual schools.
As part of the distribution, teachers were given access to computers or laptops.
The SLP government from 2013 began the process of teacher training from the OAS and other online platforms.
In dealing with the question of access, we negotiated with the government of Taiwan for island-wide accessibility through the Ginet program.
It is clear that the SLP government had devised a well-structured plan which would in the short run, allow students to complete their SBA and CXC examinations virtually or online.
As was the practice at this time, the UWP, their surrogates found all imagined and real criticisms to level at the program including the now-infamous “you cannot eat computers.” In fact, both the now minister of education and the prime minister were scathing in their attacks on the one-computer-per-child initiative of the Saint Lucia Labour Party.
My parents always taught me that patience is a virtue and God works “in mysterious ways, his wonders never cease.” We have come full circle and look at where we are hundreds of children may be denied access to learning at this time.
I can hear the screams of justification and excuses “it’s because of COVID-19, and stop criticizing, let’s work together… it’s a national effort.” True and logical as this may sound for the purposes of UWP public relations and social media sound bites.
The real truth is that some of our children particularly those from low-income and unemployed households will not be able to receive online instructions due to UWP neglect and the desire to fight and stop the work started by the SLP government.
I can assure you that there are many more examples of that vindictive UWP posture. I guess all misdeeds and policy failures will be blamed on COVID-19 as if that virus was there from June 6, 2016
Philip J. Pierre