The Minister of Education has dismissed as false, rumours that there will be an EC$1,000 registration fee for students of private schools to obtain e-learning devices provided by Government.
Hon Emmaline Pierre said government will only provide private schools with access to the Ministry’s e-learning platform – M-Star.
“This is absolutely false,” she said in a local newscast in relation to the rumour.
The Minister explained that “the primary reason we are not able to provide devices to those schools at this time is because of our limited budget and we have decided that at this time our denominational schools, our public schools, are the schools that we are providing devices for.”
Further, speaking to this issue on a radio programme this week, Hon Pierre warns, “Please be careful of the source of your information because if anyone is supposed to say the Government of Grenada is providing devices to private schools at a cost of $1000 then that would have to be the Ministry of Education providing that information. So, if you hear that information from a person representing a political organization, it may be just what it is, politics.”
She added “I have no clue what any private school or any private business is doing as it relates to provision of devices. All I can speak about is what the government is doing for denominational and public schools according to the law.”
This newspaper has learnt that private schools all take a different approach. There is one school that has brought in a supply of devices which parents are expected to purchase at a cost of $1,500. Then it becomes the students’ personal property. Another private school has introduced the devices to their system three years ago; so only new students are expected to purchase in a similar manner as the books are purchased.
Speaking to The Grenadian Voice, an educator said that it is unfair that the Ministry is not giving tablets to private schools “they are all Grenadian students whose parents pay taxes. In addition to get grants etcetera, private school numbers are part of the country’s total student population.
The educator added that parents are asked to purchase a device (Tablet or laptop) and many already have a personal device. “Our school is using Microsoft teams so we will explore some of their apps to add creativity and innovation to teaching and learning. We will use it for completing and posting homework and assignments, to enhance learning and to conduct research for projects.
Technology is good but we believe it cannot replace textbooks. The school also have a few that we can allow students to use.”
At a media conference last week, the Minister informed that the devices provided by Government are being configured, followed by the registration of 9, 600 users.
The September 07 start of the new school year is expected to see distribution of the devices to teachers and parents in a phased manner, starting with secondary school students and teachers, then to primary schools and teachers.
An annual $50 fee is required for the tablets. However, parents and guardians who paid $25 for the schoolbooks programme are only expected to pay the difference.
Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Franka Alexis-Bernadine, disagrees with the cost for the use of the devices, pointing out that vulnerable families where there are more than one child in that home may be unable to bear the total cost.
“We are not charging parents for the devices,” stated Minister Pierre, who noted that the actual cost for a device can be up to $1200. However, she said Government is bearing that cost while parents are asked to pay $50 be a part of the programme.
In addition, she stressed that government has a track record of supporting vulnerable families and will do likewise in this new programme.
Hon Pierre asked persons to not get into a political debate that government should not ask parents to contribute, expressing that she thinks the government is being “very reasonable” in its request to parents.
Speaking further to the cost incurred by Government to have the devices for students, the Education Minister explained that in addition to the other educational applications on the devices, those for secondary school students will also contain about 18 e-books. This, she said, requires government to pay an annual licencing fee.
Hon Pierre noted that other costs are incurred for shipping and handling and transportation.
The Education Minister said this costly move is to ensure that if in future teachers and students cannot be physically in the classroom due to COVID-19 challenges, there is an alternative to continue the teaching and learning process.
In addition, she pointed out that internet access is not necessary to access the apps on the device.
The Minister, therefore urged parents to view the $50 fee as an investment that will bear fruits in the future.