Digital devices for students in Tobago are currently in a warehouse in Miami. Almost 4,000 devices costing over $7 million have been sourced by the Tobago House of Assembly. The Assembly approved $7.8 million for the procurement of the devices in September.
Secretary of Education Kelvin Charles acknowledged on Wednesday during the post Executive Council media briefing in Scarborough, the acquiring of the devices is taking “a little longer” than anticipated. Almost 75 per cent of the devices are in Miami.
He said, “The company that won the bid is awaiting foreign exchange in order to pay for these devices, once that is done, then these devices would be shipped to us and we can then begin the process of distribution. We are talking about 4,000 devices.”
Memory Bank Computers Ltd, based in Trinidad, won the bid for around $6.7 million.
Discussing the distribution of the devices, he said priority will be given to students who are in receipt of financial assistance from the education division.
“There are some students who benefit from that, in the sense that we say that they’re necessitous students and therefore they would be given priority. Students who rely solely on printed packages as the only means of home-based learning will also be given priority; students who are engaged at this time using cellphones because they have no other choice would also be taken into consideration; households where there are multiple students, this would also be taken into consideration."
Earlier this year, the division revealed that 4,000 students were lacking devices to log into the online platforms. However, Charles said help has been forthcoming from other sources. Schools have been physically closed since March due to covid19.
“Over time, we have found that parents as well as various well-wishers have been donating some of these resources to schools.
“Donors include banks, credit unions, religious organisations, internet providers, state enterprises, alumni of different schools, security firms, businessmen and women, civil society groups and generous individuals. Therefore, I take this opportunity to thank all those citizens of TT who have donated devices to our schools and to students, to allow them to participate and get involved in online learning.”
Charles also praised the principals and teachers who are using all the innovations available to them, “to bring exciting experiences to these students.” He said the feedback from some students has been tremendous with some even looking forward to continuing online classes post covid19.
On the potential reopening of schools , Charles said the planning continues, as the division is operating on the key assumption that students will be able to return to their classrooms in the near future.
“If that is not possible, we would continue with the digital learning and teaching, but once they can return to the classrooms then the approach will be one where the emphasis will be on blended learning and that is because consistent with our desire to follow the established health protocols, many of our schools as they are currently constructed will not be able to accommodate all the students at the same time. There are only about five schools – primary schools – that can do that and two ECCE centres, so that we shall be using a system of rotation in the context of the blended learning or teaching strategy. Having our students rotate between home and school so that they can benefit from the various activities designed.”
He said what is required is a level of planning that would allow for a precise structuring of the timetabling as well as the various programmes of work or schemes of work and lesson plans.
Additionally, he said that it has been decided that in the last week of school, the time would be devoted for planning in preparation for blended learning, if and when it comes.
“Therefore, all teachers would be expected to engage in the various exercises, be it training exercises, be it curriculum exercises, be it lesson-planning exercises, be it structuring of the timetables so that we can hit the ground running in January or whenever that time is.”