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#Nassau, The Bahamas House of Assembly April 6, 2020
Today,I update this Honourable House and the nation of the progress by the Ministryof Education is delivering live instructions, making educational resourcesavailable, and assisting parents, teachers, administrators and all stakeholdersin the execution of the online educational system that is now full steam in theBahamas.
Thisvirtual platform serves approximately 50,000+ public school students, 25,000private school students, and 25,000 more tertiary enrolled students.
Asyou are aware, Sir, the Ministry of Education closed it school doors on Monday,March 16th, as a result of the pandemic upon us. Before this virusoutbreak, the Ministry had launched it virtual school in September, 2019, engagingover 1600 students, primarily those in remote districts in our country. In theimmediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the Online Platform was needed toprovide instruction for the storm-affected students of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Today,there is a further immediacy and urgency for educators across The Bahamas todeliver online lessons to all students in Grades K-12, utilizing the virtualschool platform.
Sincethe schools closure, the Ministrys leadership and Teams of Teachers,Curriculum Officers, Administrators and Technical Officers have met andprepared volumes of material for students for all grade levels, as well assourced materials rom available sourcesaround the globe to augment and supplement the Ministrys Offering.
toproduce e-learning instructional resources for all curricula, at the variousgrade levels.
Technicalofficers met over two days (Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th March. 2020) to developa plan for the way forward. As a result,curriculum officers established teams of teachers to develop content forplacement on the Virtual learning platform.An online student registration process was created of which the publicwas notified primarily using a media campaign engaging traditional and socialmedia.
By Monday 23rd March, the Ministrys Virtual learning site was activated with content for students of all grade levels. About 9,000 students were registered.
In2019, Learning Management System, called One n One, a collaboration with theBahamas Telecommunication Company Limited (BTC), The Cable & Wireless Foundation and SandalsFoundation was offered to assist the Ministry of Education to provide three (3)months of dedicated remote, online classes for Public School students displacedby Hurricane Dorian, in Abaco, Grand Bahama and other Family Islands.Throughout the period of engagement, students and teachers were engaged in avirtual classroom on weekends on the One-on-One virtual platform, to take themthrough much needed lessons on the five (5) core high school subjects,including Mathematics and Language for the BJC & BGCSE curricula.
Thisweek, Cabinet will consider a proposal to supplement the instruction beingoffered via its own Virtual Schooling initiative, by providing remoteinstructions via the One-on-One platform for all students in Grades K-12 in thepublic and private sectors, from April June, 2020. Covid-19 has created a tremendous learninggap, Mr. Speaker, that if not addressed, can result in a potentiallyirrecoverable deficit for students in the Bahamian education sector.
Thereis currently no data available on Private sector students receiving virtuallearning, the Ministry of Education has received many requests for generalfinancial assistance, and now increased grant-in-aid subventions sinceHurricane Dorian, when a number of the New Providence based private schoolstook in a number of displaced students, particularly students from Abaco.
Sincethe COVID 19 Crisis, anecdotal evidence affirms that many private institutionsare struggling with the provision of on- line classes, particularly for theirstudents who have no internet connectivity.In this regard, the One On One proposal for facilitating pre-recordedlessons via Flo TV makes this proposal particularly critical for the Ministryof Education.
Thisarrangement would enable all teachers in The Bahamas in public and privateschools to access live, remote classes with their students for a period of twoand a half months, commencing on April 20th, 2020, while exercising socialdistancing in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Iask parents/guardians and care-givers to please register their students. Go to http://www.ministryofeducationbahamas.com, web page. You will see a link thatsays virtual learning portal, click on that; and register. For those alreadyregistered, simply go to your respective grades, and begin your work. Registered students have received theirlearning schedules, so they know the times for their classes. The virtuallearning space mirrors exactly what the students would be doing in a regularschool day two periods in the morning, a break, two more periods, then lunch.The same thing.
Mr.Speaker, in the midst of this crisis, the MOE is aware of the psycho-socialsupport that many may need to help them cope. Thus, I am pleased to announcethat Isra-Aid, a Non-Profit entity, and Ms. Imri Grinberg, The Bahamas Head ofMission, has been invaluable a resource in providing critical ne
Theycreated a series of modules of interactive webinars to reach the entire staffin the coming weeks. Our purpose is twofold: to provide psychosocial assistanceto the staff and to give the school counselors and teachers effective tools tosupport the students. They have been collaborating with the Guidance andCounselling Unit and the Superintendents to coordinate future dates forengagements.
LastFriday, Isra-Aid launched its first webinar Dealing withUncertainty for the school counselors, which was extremely successful.There was very good feedback with 96 unique participants.
Withthe establishment of the Virtual School, and the paucity of devices of internetservices for a significant swath of our student population, they have committedto ensuring that no student is left behind. IsraAID is endeavoring thefollowing initiatives:
1.Procurement of tablets, solar chargers, data packages for students in Abaco. Alsoplanning to include an information toolkit for children and parents withadditional activities.
2.Assisting the MOEs Staff in monitoring the attendance and participation ofstudents in the Virtual School.
3.Helping in the creation of online content including webinars, videos, andactivities related to education, hygiene promotion, well-being, and recreationto collaborate and approved by the MoE and added to the Virtual School.
4.Creating and distributing printed content packets for students who currently donot have online access.
Mr.Speaker, our Ministry and Department Teams have been working virtually aroundthe clock to expand the offering of the virtual school, and assist the manythousands of Bahamian students now affected by this pandemic. I am deeply appreciative of all thosetechnical officers within the Department of Education and the scores ofteachers and school administrators who have answered the call ensure that ourstudents education does not have to stop because of the Coronavirus. Proud of Permanent Secretary Mrs. LorraineArmbrister and Education Director, Mr. Marcellus Taylor, for their stellarleadership in delivery this new platform for our students and teachers.
Whetherit was the development of the Virtual Learning platform, production of learningresources, establishing and facilitating virtual learning classes, offering trainingand support to Administrators, Teachers, parents and students, all of theseefforts are appreciated greatly. We aregrateful and the Bahamas is proud of you for your invaluable contribution tothe countrys development.
TheProblem, Mr. Speaker, and for which we do not now have the data is how manystudents in our system do not have internet access? Or if they do, do not havea device with which to access the internet, and thus continue with theirlearning.
Weare advised anecdotally, that there is between 10-20% of our students who maybe so deprived. If so, we are looking at 10,000 students in the public sectoralone. This, I can assure You, Sir, as noted previously is being addressed.
Tothat end, the Ministry is now working with our Providers, Aliv and BTC, indesigning a platform where internet-deprived students, or device-challengedstudents the internet capability, getdevices, and alternatively, view their lessons on two dedicated Cable Channelsthat will be populated with the appropriate content for their use.
Thatis why, as we move forward, All hands must be on deck to assist in advancingour Virtual Learning activities. As Istated on March 18 in this Honourable Chamber,
ThoughTeachers and students are away from Campus, learning and teaching MUST continue. End of term exams have to becalculated. National Exams have to re-fashioned. Schools all over the world arescrambling to adjust to this new environment, whether it their admissionrequirements, assessment modules, etc.
Thisis not a vacation. The school system has already lost precious instructionaland learning time due to Hurricane Dorian. We cannot afford a single day furtherin lost educational time. Teachers and school administrators, while separatedphysically from their students, will be asked to undertake the following:
Pleasekeep in mind that this is new territory and as we navigate these unchartedwaters, we will seek to provide you with the guidance needed to have success.As Prime Minister stated Sunday night in his national update, the Govtsdecisions in this COVID-19 reality are based on the facts and the best medicaland scientific information
possible.As he asked the nation, I repeat in my advice to Educators throughout thesystem, please be guided by health officials and reliable information fromcredible sources.
Furtherto all this, Mr. Speaker, is our students of developmental or alternativelylearning abilities. They have to be supported and taught as well. We areaddressing this as we speak, but it has its challenges.
Remember,we are in this together and when you succeed, we all success and the studentsand the country are the beneficiaries.We are one team with one goal!
Restassured that the Ministry of Education is committed fully to the education ofall students in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and we will do our best toprovide them with a quality education without regard to the circumstances. We are aware that some students do not haveaccess to the Internet or devises and we are exploring ways to reduce oreliminate these access to education issues.
Thereare some 4200 public school students on our lunch voucher program, asidentified by the Dept of Social Svcs.Recognizing that the need for continued sustenance must be maintained,the Ministry organized a deliver system for the distribution of the vouchers tothe affected students and their families. Approx. 55% of vouchers collected inNP and 45% in GB. Fam. Is. 100%issued. Transportation appears to be keyissue. Xtra Vaue and Budget had issueswith printing od vouchers. Should beresolved this week. Team would like toask security personnel at the various schools in New Providence to assist withissuing the remainder of the vouchers in NP & GB. Due to the short week and the need to writeup 2700 vouchers for NP and 1500 for GB the new vouchers will not be distributeduntil 15 to 17 April.
PROPOSED REVISED EXAMINATION DATES
TheMOE is reviewing our natl exam schedule closely, and guided by the facts andscience, will be making announcement as soon as all the data needed to makethat decision is available to us.
Additionally,many have called asking about the re-opening of schools.
Mr.Speaker, as the PM just announced, this curfew and intermittent lockdown willcontinue until the end of April, 2020.
Therefore,schools will not re-open until certainly after that, but not until theCompetent Authority The PM gives the Order to do so.
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