His call comes via a Facebook post on Tuesday where he expressed concerns over the closure of schools.
“A shift system (similar to what was done after [Hurricane] Irma) can be implemented to give students the support that they need while ensuring that the social distancing protocols and rules are strictly followed,” he wrote.
He added, “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!”
Walwyn then queried the reason for the closure of schools.
“I am concerned! 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.
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,” he remarked.
Concerns for online learning
He said, there were several reasons why he is concerned with an ‘entirely online learning approach.”
He explained, “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.”
He said in the case of special needs students and students with other learning difficulties; they 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 mentioned the unreliable internet service, access to computer devices, and other factors as reasons for his stance.
“Parents must also go to work to make a living and contribute to the development of the country. In addition to providing an education for our children, the school provides a place of safekeeping for children while their parents are at work," he stated.
The former Education Minister added, "This current Covid-19 situation should be a teachable moment for our young people. The protocols that will be put in place in the school environment will make them understand the seriousness of this disease and the importance of adhering to the rules and protocols that were put in place for our protection. Currently, many of our students who are left at home are not adhering to social distancing, are not wearing masks or sanitizing the way they should.”
He also pointed out that private schools should be allowed to operate as they have smaller numbers and the protocols can be better managed.
“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,” he concluded.
On August 1, Minister for Health Carvin Malone announced that a new Order was being enforced that would require schools to be closed.
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