In May of this year, Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves told a media conference that the Government had identified sources of funding that would make it possible to purchase a tablet (computer) for each student enrolled in schools here.
At the time of making the disclosure, the number of laptops to be purchased was put at 30,000.
Gonsalves had said then that among the sources of funding were an unnamed Non-Government Organisation (NGO), the government of India and the World Bank.
Readers will recall that Parliament in April, a month or so before Minister Gonsalves’ announcement as referenced, had approved a sum of money for the purchase of tablets for Grade Six and secondary school students.
This was estimated to amount to 3,000 units and were to facilitate online lessons, especially for those students preparing for the CPEA and CSEC, which replaced face-to-face lessons that had been discontinued as a preventative measure against COVID-19.
The situation, as highlighted by Minister Gonsalves, was that not all students were equipped with devises that would allow them access to online learning, and therefore, government felt obligated to ensure that there was no “digital divide’ that would place the better off households at an advantage.
As far as the remaining tablets (computers) are concerned, this promise is still to materialize.
Schools re-opened here last Monday, and when the Minister of Education St. Clair Prince addressed the issue during a press conference this week, he said that shipping was the problem, and “the fact that the order is so large, there were issues sourcing all from one place.”
The uncertainty about when/if the tablets would arrive has aroused much disappointment among both students and teachers, the latter already put off by the fact that the devices did not arrive before school re-opened, so that they could familiarise themselves with them so as to be better able to guide the students in their use.