Former Education Minister Myron Walwyn has raised concerns behind government’s August 1 order to close all schools now that a ninth COVID-19 case has been recorded in the territory.
Addressing the issue in a social media post on Tuesday, August 4, the former legislator said his comments are not to be viewed as a criticism of the sitting government.
“I am concerned! I had a mouthful to say so this is a long post! This is in no way a criticism of the work being done by the government, and I wish for it not to be viewed in that light. I just think that more thought should be given to this and other policy positions being taken,” Walwyn wrote.
While accepting that managing COVID-19 is not easy for any country, Walwyn said he believes what might be good for one country may not be useful across the board.
“We heard of one new case of COVID-19 which, from the information provided, the situation is contained and the necessary precautions are in place to keep it that way. It begs the question as to why is it necessary to keep schools in the BVI closed until October 31,” he said.
“While online learning will provide some assistance, it is woefully inadequate for the current needs of most of our students from K-12. A blended approach of traditional instructions supplemented by the online contact will better serve our students,” the former Education Minister stated.
Implement a shift system
Walwyn then suggested that a shift system to be implemented; similar to what was done following the September 2017 hurricanes.
He said that system would provide students with the support they need while social distancing protocols and other rules are followed.
“We must, of course, provide extensive training to the education ministry personnel to ensure proper supervision of the schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the students and the faculty. It can be done,” he argued.
As it relates to online schooling, he said there were some concerns that he had and wished to vent.
“Students most often do not give full attention, if any, to the online lessons. They are very often distracted by other things that they find more entertaining. A significant portion of the work given to students is done by parents and other family members and not by the students. This doesn’t happen in every household, but it happens in many,” Walwyn reasoned.
He continued: “Special needs students and students with other learning difficulties will be at a severe disadvantage. These students need to be reached by teachers who are trained to handle their individual circumstances. This service most likely is not available at home. “
He also pointed to the unreliable internet service and accessibility of computer devices as some of the problems still plaguing the online learning system.
The former legislator further said he believes private educational institutions should be allowed to operate.
“They should, of course, follow the protocols and should be monitored in the same manner as the public institutions. The private schools usually have smaller numbers and can better manage the social distancing protocols than the public schools which have larger numbers,” he stated.
The Public Health (COVID-19 Control and Suppression Measures) Order that took effect at the start of the month said: “All schools shall be closed and all school-related extra-curricular activities shall be discontinued.”
Health Minister Carvin Malone explained that this order was made under the Public Health Act for the purpose of protecting public health and for the prevention, control and suppression of the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
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