President: Address the Challenges of Covid in Schools

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By Sue-Ann Wayow

EDUCATIONAL institutions need to be equipped to accommodate both physical and virtually learning with less emphasis on examinations as a placement tool.

This was the message given by President Paula-Mae Weekes in commemoration for International Day of Education on Sunday.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Weekes said, “With schools scheduled to open next month, it is imperative that the challenges thrown up by Covid are addressed. Our educational institutions should be properly outfitted and equipped for both physical and virtual learning and teachers trained continuously in the administration of both frameworks. The curricula should be reimagined with less emphasis on examinations as a placement tool and our children provided with the technological tools and instruction they need to access and succeed at learning.”

The President said Trinidad and Tobago was not spared  the effects of Covid-19 with schools being physically closed since March.

This year’s theme is Recover and Revitalise Education for the Covid-19 Generation.

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Giving information from the United Nations (UN), Weekes said the UN estimated that 1.6 billion pupils from over 190 countries have been affected by the closure of learning institutions and programmes, with one third of the world’s students unable to access remote alternatives.

Weekes said, “Remote learning has enabled many students to continue their academic journey, while others on the other side of the glaring digital divide are at risk of falling behind.”

The Ministry of Education indicated at the beginning of the pandemic that approximately 65,000 pupils lacked internet and the necessary devices and while donations from the public and private sector reduced that figure, “far too many children remain isolated and disconnected from their fundamental human right to education,” Weekes said.

Apart from lack of proper connectivity and resources, children who depended on the school feeding programme have lost nutritional meals and others experienced increased abuse from being home more, she added.

She said, “The pandemic even affected the administration, grading and review process of critical exams, leaving many students disappointed and frustrated. Teachers have also faced an uphill battle in adjusting their teaching methods for digital platforms, managing and monitoring students online and reaching those without regular access to devices and connectivity.”

She repeated her statements made at the last President’s Medal Awards ceremony that Covid-19 served as a wake-up call to ensure that the system becomes resilient, flexible and  innovative.


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