Tuesday 2 June, 2020

Students' Council lists needs ahead of physical reopening of classes

The Saint Lucia National Students’ Council (SLNSC), the umbrella body for all students’ councils in Saint Lucia, has expressed its concerns and perspective on the partial reopening of school on the island.

“Over the past few months, we have seen how the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the education sector and has initiated a transition from the physical classroom space to virtual and remote learning.

As a result, students and teachers have resorted to the utilization of virtual learning platforms to facilitate instruction.

As a student-led organization, the SLNSC focuses on ensuring that all students are represented and all issues being faced by the student populace is addressed accordingly.

This global crisis has shown that there is a need for reformation of our education system and moving forward we ought to have a solid contingency plan to mitigate against future global threats on the education of our students.

On May 13, 2020, the SLNSC engaged the Ministry of Education through the Chief Education Officer, Dr Fiona Mayer, in a virtual discussion which focused on the plan which will allow form five and grade six students to return to school, tentatively on June 2, 2020.

The plan seeks to address student health and safety, teaching modalities and CSEC/Common Entrance exam protocols.

After consulting with our membership; students across the island, the Saint Lucia National Students’ Council realizes that it is pertinent at this point to express the views and concerns of students as they are at the centre of this transition.

The feedback provided by members has led to the following recommendations.

  1. Provision of visual guidelines as it relates to the distancing measures within classrooms and a clear representation of the recommended classroom holding capacity.
  2. Transportation should be provided by the Ministry of Education to and from school compounds to:
  • Safeguard students from being exposed to uncontrolled interaction with the public.
  • Ensure that students arrive at school and return home in a timely manner.
  • Reduce financial strain on parents during this unprecedented pandemic.
  • Decrease loitering of students in high-risk areas.
  1. In keeping with the knowledge that not all students are equally privileged and the majority of students depend on the feeding programs and school canteens, the Ministry of Education should provide assistance to students who are not able to carry meals from home.
  2. Washing of hands has been a major health and safety protocol during this time and many are concerned that schools may not have a regular water supply.

Therefore, the Ministry of Education should provide the necessary resources to ensure that all safety protocols are followed; e.g., additional water tanks and functional hand sanitizer dispensers can be installed.

  1. Schools are often viewed as a social hub by students and for this reason, we need to ensure that students will follow a robust plan for adherence to the COVID-19 safety protocols.
  2. The Ministry of Education MUST continue to reassure students and parents that the proposed steps will not jeopardize their safety.

The Saint Lucia National Students’ Council implores the Ministry of Education to pay great consideration to the above recommendations in the best interest of our students.”

The Government of Saint Lucia took a decision to close schools on the island ahead of schedule, effective March 16, 2020, one day after Saint Lucia confirmed its first case of COVID-19.

The premature closure coincided with other measures taken in controlling the spread of the virus.

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