COVID: Over 150,000 students affected in Eastern Caribbean countries

(PR) – The third edition of the KIX Conversations delved into the current state of education in the Eastern Caribbean countries and the post-pandemic challenges and opportunities that exist.

Dr. Neva Pemberton, Technical Specialist in the Education Development Management Unit of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Commission; and Dr. Claudia Louis, Chief of the Planning Unit of the Ministry of Education of Saint Lucia and member of KIX LAC, were the guests of the third edition of the KIX Conversations, where, interviewed by researcher Ivana Zacarias.

They spoke about COVID-19 and equity in education: challenges, strategic responses, and opportunities to build back better in the OECS.

The impact of COVID-19 on education providers affected 1,149 institutions from the early childhood to tertiary level, impacting 152,317 students and 10,859 teachers in English- Speaking OECS territories.

Dr. Pemberton emphasized that “OECS Member States have a relatively enabling legislative environment to pursue initiatives to strengthen equity, yet there needs to be more emphasis on the inclusion for students with disabilities and other special educational needs; additionally, because there is insufficient data to make evidence-based decisions to strengthen equity in education, effectively planning for equity and inclusion is constrained.”

“Education during the pandemic heightens existing equity concerns and presents new ones. With respect to the digital divide, primarily students of low socioeconomic status and from areas with limited connectivity are disproportionately affected,” said Claudia Louis.

In response to these issues, St. Lucia designed a plan of response strategies to improve equity in education, which include an income support program for the newly unemployed; the expansion of school welfare and psychosocial support programs; face-to-face attendance for students preparing for external exams; the distribution of devices and e-books to bridge the digital divide; and the Human Capital Resilience Project: skills training and social protection.

The OECS Commission is also implementing a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Strategy that targets vulnerable students and teachers.

Opportunities to build back better centered on sustaining investments in ICTs and education to better reach vulnerable and out of school populations and mainstreaming programmes to mitigate against learning loss.

The criticality of using an equity lens in pursuing policies, practices, and financing models to bring, to quote Dr. Pemberton “the margins to the center,” will contribute to more inclusive and equitable student outcomes.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Zacarias highlighted the important role played by the OECS in supporting the governments of the region to confront the pandemic.

The event was streamed live on Facebook and KIX LAC’s YouTube channel.

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