Close to 15,000 eight-inch Samsung devices arrive
Distribution of 18,000 Samsung tablets, the award of 58 scholarships and bursaries, and the waiver of interest payment on certain student loans are all initiatives related to education that were announced this week.
“Tomorrow (Wednesday, October 28) by Amerijet, close to 15,000 eight-inch Samsung devices, the tablets which I had announced in Parliament as part of the Covid package to assist with online teaching and learning; they will arrive,” Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves indicated, on Tuesday, October 27, while delivering his Independence address at the Victoria Park.
Yesterday (October 29), the distribution of the 3000 tablets already in stock began with the presentation of 1,352 of them to students of the divisions of Arts Science & General Studies (DASGS) and Teacher Education of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College.
Minister of Education St Clair Prince symbolically handed over the first two tablets to Nailah Samuel of the DASGS and Avadil Jack of the Division of Teacher Education.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Myccle Burke explained to the students that the devices will connect them to the world outside; that the smart devices are only as smart as the purposes they will be utilised for and urged the students to use them wisely.
Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves described the tablet distribution as a wonderful day in the history of education in St Vincent and the Grenadines, especially, in light of the pandemic.
Gonsalves told the students that the surest way out of poverty is through education. He said the aim of the tablet distribution is to bridge the gap between those students who have access to technology versus those who do not, adding that the pandemic revealed the digital divide among students.
Nailah Samuel, the student of the DASGS who symbolically received the first tablet delivered the vote of thanks. She said the tablets were greatly appreciated and that they, the students, in turn, will show their gratitude by doing well. The rest of the student body collected their tablets after the ceremony.
Today, the Divisions of Technical and Vocational and Nursing Education will receive their tablets, while on Monday, teachers and the Ministry of Education will distribute the others to all students at Secondary School and all students in the CPEA class in the Primary Schools.
Teachers will also receive tablets.
“We have also ordered a more generic eight-inch device, tablet, for grade five in the Primary school, downwards. Those would be delivered as they arrive at a later date,” the Prime Minister said in his Independence address.
Appropriation Act was approved in the House of Assembly on April 7, $4 million of which was for the purchasing of tablets as a means of promoting distance education in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Additionally, on Tuesday, Gonsalves revealed that there are 1047 students: 630 who sat the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations; 210 who took the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), and 207 at the Associate Degree level who “have achieved the required standard to be paid the $500 initiative which our Government introduced many years ago.”
These numbers are pre-reviews, which are currently ongoing, and 53 students may yet become eligible, the Prime Minister says.
These payments will be made “soonest.”
Importantly, he informed “the officials of the Ministry of Education have recommended 58 students for consideration to be awarded National scholarships, national exhibitions and bursaries arising from the recent CAPE and Associate Degree examinations.”
This is the highest number that has ever been given, he noted.
The Prime Minister said that he accepted the recommendations of the Ministry of Education and will therefore awarding, from the results of the examinations: “16 full national scholarships at University each for five years fully funded, 11 national exhibitions for three years fully funded, and 31 bursaries for the similar three year period.”
“Our Government will continue to have our students soar like Eagles with their wings unclipped,” he commented.
The Prime Minister declared that University students, as well as former University students who have graduated, that have loans under the economically disadvantaged student loans program of the student loans company, are granted a full waiver of interest payment for one year. This applies from October 1, 2020, to August 31, 2021, and it is said that it will cost the Government two million dollars.
“Thereafter for the academic year 2021 to 2022 onwards, the interest on all the economically disadvantaged student loans, existing loans, loans with interest arrears, and new loans will be reduced from 8.5% annually to 6% in accordance with the amended sustainable
metrics from the National Insurance Services regarding the investment of the NIS funds on this portfolio,” Gonsalves stated. These decisions were taken as measures to alleviate the hardship caused by the pandemic, he said.
The Prime Minister made his speech as the date for general elections, November 5, draws near.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) contesting against the Unity Labour Party(ULP) of which Gonsalves is the political leader, has declared in their manifesto that one of their proposals is to reduce the student loan interest rate to 4.5%.
“We will enable the new Development Bank to support students with cheaper loans, with an interest rate of 4.5 percent. Persons with existing loans will have the option to refinance with the Development Bank at the lower interest rate. This will be possible because of our plan to bring in new investment through our Citizenship by Investment Program and other development finance,” page 37 of the NDP manifesto reads.