The following is a statement by the Hon. Gale Rigobert, Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development.
“It is with a sense of gratitude and exhilaration that I would like to congratulate and pay homage to all of the education stakeholders, students and parents for their overwhelming support and cooperation during what has been a most trying third term of the school year, amidst the impacts of Covid -19.
“As you would know, given the effects of the global pandemic the Coronavirus, of which Saint Lucia was not spared, and with the country recording its first positive case on March 13, we moved swiftly to close all our education institutions on March 16, 2020. Ahead of this decision, we held several stakeholder meetings between officials of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health-guided by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sharon Belmar George. And, as the situation unfolded right before our eyes we ensured that our teachers, students and parents were well informed way ahead of the closure of schools as to the various best hygiene practices, protocols and measures to mitigate against the Coronavirus.
“During the closure of schools, particularly between March and June, we ensured that we stayed in constant contact with principals, teachers and students as well as the wider public. Via the Information Command Center at GIS, WhatsApp, Facebook and the media, not only were we able to communicate the latest updates to the nation, but we were also able to offer advice and suggestions of activities to teachers, parents and students, ever cognizant of the challenges some were facing during the “learning from home” period.
“The Ministry of Education is also thankful for the assistance we received from our internet providers to increase accessibility and provided user friendly platforms for e-learning as well as MiFi-devices.
“In partnership with a number of agencies we were able to provide students and teachers with internet access and more than 1000 e-learning devices, including tablets, laptops and computers. We were also able to continue providing meals to those in need as well as psycho-social support where necessary.
“I would like to commend the teachers and principals who went the extra mile by using the various online platforms and strategies to engage students and also distributed physical material and packages for our students during this most difficult and unprecedented period.
“On June 3, following another stakeholder meeting and having been advised by our CMO and all of the experts, we witnessed a seamless transition of our Form 5 and Grade 6 students and teachers back to the classrooms in preparation for their respective exams. During the six-week period that followed, we ensured that the health and safety of our students and staff was never compromised, assisting schools in equipping classrooms that would enable them to follow the various protocols as advised by the Ministry of Health.
“The Ministry of Education continued to work closely with the Ministry of Health in making decisions in relation to these two critical groups, taking into consideration current information about COVID-19 transmission in children, the local situation, the school setting and ability to maintain COVID-19 prevention and control measures.
“As we celebrate the success of our students at the Common Entrance Exams, I would like to once again say a special thank you to all of the stakeholders, my team at the Ministry of Education, the Chief Education Officer, the Permanent Secretary, teachers, principals, support staff and of course students and parents. Your support has led to a wholesome and incident free transition for these students, during what I will acknowledge was a most difficult period. It was a time of much anxiety and fear and understandably so. But as Eleanor Roosevelt once said; “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
“And so, as we get set to take that next bold step into the new schoolyear we must hold on to those words, having faith and confidence in our people and that together there is nothing that we cannot overcome. Not only will we win this fight, but our education system will grow stronger and better as we do this together. I thank you all!”