Madame Speaker, my statement this afternoon will address three topics: continuing the phased re-opening of schools, the way forward for the pending 2021 exams (PEP, CSEC and CAPE) and the results of the OYOD programme.

Madame Speaker, our response to teaching and learning since the confirmation of Jamaica’s first case of Covid-19 on March 10, 2020 has been the closure of our public schools on March 12, 2020 for face-to-face instructions. Since then the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has deployed alternative educational engagement for our students beginning with the audio/visual approach in which students are engaged through lessons broadcast on over-the-air-television, cable channels and aired on radio stations and the learning kit comprising textbooks, worksheet and teacher interaction.

On October 5, the Ministry declared schools re-opened for the new school year, we introduced the online modality to our students and teachers while still making available all the other modalities I just mentioned.

During the period since Oct 5, we note that a total of 174,973 of our students were engaged online. 12,389 were engaged using the audio visual approach, 12,213 were engaged using the learning kit, while 48,672 were engaged using both print and broadcast. All these numbers increased week-by-week as more and more students received their tablets. Madame Speaker, to date, across our school system, the government has made available to our children some 52, 164 tablets (18,000 + 34, 164) and we have 31,000 more on the way for our Path students in Grades 7-9 and laptops for Grades 10-13.

In addition, 23,563 teachers who were part of the Heads of Agreement received tablets, the appeals are being handled and the MoEYI is making arrangements for the new teachers that have come into the system since then to also receive a tablet.

Corporate Jamaica, our diaspora and international partners have heard the Government’s call for One Laptop or Tablet per Child in Jamaica and have jumped on board.

In my next statement, Madame Speaker I will detail the success of that initiative. Many companies and individuals have been donating tablets to our children. We ask that companies and individuals contact the National Education Trust at (876-967-9007) let us know which schools and how many devices they have donated so that we can track it in our database in order not to give a device to the same child twice.

Of equal importance Madame Speaker, this will allow the MoEYI to install the MoEYI e-resources app which will make it easier for the student to navigate the online platform. Let me say a big thank you to the many companies and individuals who have heard the call and stepped forward to make their contributions. We will acknowledge you publicly in a subsequent statement to Parliament.

Madame Speaker, on the issue of connectivity, as of the first of December, 98 of our schools that never had internet connectivity, now have connectivity using the satellite technology and there are two more schools set to complete their installation at the end of today December 8, 2020.

Teachers who were having problems connecting at home have been coming to school to utilize the connectivity to reach our students. Madame Speaker, this administration is ensuring all our children are ready with the technological skills to meet the 21st century.

Understanding the importance of students and teachers coming back into the physical classrooms, we undertook a phased re-opening of schools beginning with a two week pilot of 17 schools across nine parishes. This was done November 10 to 20. An interim report was presented to this parliament on Nov 17th.

This pilot helped to build stakeholder support and foster confidence in having our students and teachers back in the physical classrooms as we continue to navigate the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.

Following the completion of the two weeks and a favourable evaluation report from the Planning and Development Division details of which were presented to the PAAC on Thursday, December 3, 2020), the 17 schools where permitted to continue their face-to-face teaching and learning activities.

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