On Wednesday 6 th October, 2021, Honorable Octavia Alfred, Minister of Education, Human Resource Planning and Vocational Training, informed of the reopening of schools via the online platform and the ways in which the government has planned to mitigate possible challenges.
According to her, “The government has enacted an S.R.O 26 of 2021 which limits gatherings and other places of instructions must remain closed. Additionally, we had to consider the vulnerability of our students to the threat against Covid-19.”
Furthermore, Alfred indicated that the Ministry has developed a system that will seek to aid in the academic process. She states, “From September 1 st 2021, school staff have been engaged in professional training activities online, in preparation for a flexible approach in students’ engagement.” Moreover, there are ongoing sessions that are conducted throughout the academic year to assist both staff and students. These include psychological discussions for online learning and tips for online schooling. Alfred highlighted that a lead teacher has been identified at each school to provide continuous support and training to staff during the semester.
In addition, Alfred informed that from September 13 th 2021, form five (5) students were once again academically engaged. A research was conducted with all form five students as the target population to determine which students are without internet access or electronic devices. “Our research showed that there are 41 form five (5) students on the island with no devices and no internet access. These students are accommodated at the primary schools in their communities from 8:00 am to 1:00pm.”
Nevertheless, Alfred was pleased to announce that their research has allowed them to address some of the key challenges. Consequently, the number of students without devices has dropped due to an increased effort by the government to provide these students with new devices. Notably, school has recommenced for primary school students and students between forms 1 and forms 4 on October 4 th 2021. A similar research was conducted to that of form five (5), whereby the Ministry gathered that 186 secondary school students and 307 primary school students are without electronic devices. However, an order of 1000 electronic devices have been placed by the government to be distributed to students upon its arrival to Dominica.
Importantly, the Ministry has taken into consideration students with special needs. Teachers have been trained in google classroom as well as another online leaning platform known as See-Saw, which is specifically used for students with special needs.
Furthermore, Alfred explained, “Teachers will keep daily students attendance log and ensure that students learning is monitored and adequate feedback is provided on a daily basis. Principals will ensure that the needs of all students are adequately addressed by following up on absenteeism, teacher lesson delivery and will complete weekly reports.”
In light of the current circumstances, the Ministry found it extremely important to provide students and teachers with access to well trained and professional counsellors. A hotline will be activated whereby persons could contact the counsellors to speak of their challenges.
While it is noted that the path ahead may be tough, the Ministry stands committed to playing its role and commends all principals, teachers and parents for their tremendous support.