There should be no digital divide among students – Gonsalves
Online instruction has started at most schools here, but Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves says that data is showing that not all students are properly equipped to benefit.
Therefore, digital tablets will be provided to all 30,000 students, but beginning with a smaller order of 3000 for senior secondary school and grade six students.
At a press conference last week, the finance minister noted that all students need to access instruction, therefore the government will be providing digital devices to students and wi-fi in some cases.
He informed that only about one quarter of the nation’s households have wireless Internet capabilities.
“Some households have devices, but the devices don’t belong to the students,” said Gonsalves, while adding that if children are out of school for an extended period or if they attend school for shortened hours, a digital divide can be created where children from better off families have greater access to education.
“So, the government in the supplementary budget placed resources aside for the purchase of sufficient tablets for all secondary schools and the grade six of primary schools,” Gonsalves stated.
He said that grade six students were included as they are getting ready for exams, but now, the government has received additional support from an educational Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the government of India and the World Bank and that has allowed them to expand the tablet initiative to deal with all students.
The finance minister said negotiations with a number of vendors and suppliers have revealed that there is a high demand for these devices so St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will not be able to buy one brand, from one source at once.
He also noted that the devices will not come from high-end companies like Apple and Samsung, but they will be affordable with the basic minimum criteria to get online, get teaching instruction and submit homework and school based assessments (SBAs).
Explaining further, Gonsalves said the idea is not ours alone as the United States (US) as well as other countries in the region is purchasing these devices, making them scarce.
He said as a result, the government will begin with a smaller order for senior secondary school and grade six students.
“The other ones will come later, and we believe that within a month, we will have gone a very long way in addressing the digital divide if children are out of school for a very long time,” Gonsalves said.
He said the government is hoping that the tablets will assist students even when school resumes, as classes may not run the full day straight away.