Gonsalves to work with VINLEC to “see what we can do” for students without electricity

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has announced that schools across St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will reopen on May 25th, 2020 for Grade 6 and Form 5 students, as well as pupils of technical institutes.

Speaking on XtremeFM with Tha Fugitive and Christal on Friday (May 15), Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves noted the importance of resuming classes.
“There are several reasons why it’s important to have these classes back. The exams are coming, CPEA, CAPE the regional exams with the technical institutes and other people need to come back to work, rather than staying home with their children.”
“…Secondly, though we are doing a lot of IT (online) work, across the whole region and the world, the differences between those who are economically advantaged and those who are economically disadvantaged, those lines are clearer with the online education because some people don’t have laptops, devices, internet access.”
E-LEARNING (ELECTRICITY)

Since schools have been closed due to COVID-19, classes have been conducted online, through various mediums.

Concerns have risen as to how students who do not live in homes with electricity are supposed to participate in e-learning.

The prime minister said that he has told the relevant personnel to send him a list to send to the St. Vincent Electricity Services Ltd. (VINLEC) to see what can be done.

“Those without electricity, I tell them tell me their names and I send their names to VINLEC to see what we can do about that. I haven’t gotten a report on that yet.”

The government previously announced that it will be purchasing some 30,000 tablets for students to aid with e-learning.

Speaking on this while on XtremeFM, Gonsalves said, “we’re trying to order the devices, the 30,000.”
FACE MASKS / PHYSICAL DISTANCING
Responding to a question about the provision of face masks for students, Gonsalves said, “that’s not the current plan.”

“The chances of children infecting children, statistically has been very slim. It’s more a case if adults infecting the children.”

“Do you really think an 11-year-old child is going to keep on a mask all day. They’re going pull it down their neck, put it underneath here (pointing to his chin), it becomes a bag collecting germs. Put it back up, touch up their face.”

“It’s all well and good to mention things theoretically, but you always have to ground it with the practical requisites of the situation.”

Gonsalves stated instead, physical distancing measures can be implemented.

“Some classes where you have much larger classes, they will have to be divided more.”

“…Larger schools such as Prep School and C.W. Prescott will have to do their social distancing arrangements internally, and we’ll see how that goes…. no one size is going to fit all.”

TRANSPORTATION

Many students are commuted to and from school by means of public transport. The government, in its national response to COVID-19, has implemented a stipulation, reducing the number of passengers allowed to travel on buses at any one time.
A question was asked regarding how students will get to and from school considering the fact that minibus space has been limited.
Responding to this, the PM said, “state school buses will be operating.”
The MoE last Thursday (May 14) informed that the school day will commence at 9:30 am and conclude at 2:30 pm.
According to Gonsalves, “this will afford for somebody (van operator) to make an earlier trip and come back and pick up children. So I think they’re (MoE) trying to organize some flexibility.”