More schools connected to internet; Gov’t moves to cut digital divide

As the Ministry of Education pushes to get more students connected digitally, it has started what Portfolio Minister Fayval Williams has described as the “on-boarding of 362 schools that are located in close proximity to the Government’s fibre infrastructure.”

In elaborating, she said: “Of that 362 schools, connectivity work has started in 43 schools, (and) 30 schools have been fully connected.”

Williams was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. She was giving an update on the education sector since the reopening of schools on January 3.

The roll-out of broadband in schools is a partnership involving the Education Ministry, the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology and the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

The idea is to develop an affordable and robust approach to the provision of adequate internet connectivity to all public schools, said Williams.

“This will ensure equity and inclusion with a special focus on students in remote areas with limited access to the internet,” she added.

The minister explained that for the remaining 661 schools that are not in close proximity to the Government’s fibre infrastructure, “we are far advanced with a national procurement of internet supply for our schools.

“Additionally, we are completing the survey of the system and are advanced in the plan to upgrade the networking capability of our schools so that there is WiFi access in all classrooms to enable teachers to manage a blended environment in which some students will be in the remote/virtual environment, while others are in the physical classroom on a rotational basis,” said Williams.

Meanwhile, 954 of the 983 primary and high schools are said to have been approved as COVID-19-compliant by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. This means that there has been a physical re-inspection of the facilities for COVID and non-COVID issues.

The minister explained that a COVID-compliant school has wash stations or sinks where the children have easy access to wash their hands, distance markers to make the students aware of how far apart to stand or sit from each other, an isolation room with its own bathroom facilities in the event a child shows up with runny nose, coughing or with a fever, so that child can be isolated until medical help arrives.

“In this environment of the new omicron virus, our priority is to keep our children as safe as we can,” Williams emphasised.

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