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By Latrishka Thomas

The results of a recent needs assessment survey conducted within the school population in Antigua and Barbuda show that many students were not receiving online instruction or printed material since Covid-19 changed the teaching dynamic.

Assistant Director of Education Planning (the unit in charge of research), Stacy Payne-Mascall disclosed this data in two graphs during Wednesday’s press conference.

The 920 persons surveyed in April, (more than 50 percent of teachers), were asked how many students they were able to reach in an online modality.

Payne-Mascall’s graph showed that the largest percentage of students who accessed online learning was 74 percent in public schools and 95 percent in private schools.

“There is no bar that is showing 100 percent and that is a cause for concern,” the assistant director noted.

“Even as we look even deeper into the data, because there were some open-ended questions that were posed, some teachers would have hinted that even though [they] reached the students, some of them weren’t actively engaged,” she added.

Moreover, referencing another graph, Payne-Mascall explained “that even more so we did not reach a lot of students and this really reflects mostly our primary schools where we would have struggled a bit in terms of reaching even using our printing material.”

Only 37 percent of primary school students and 38 percent of secondary school students accessed printed material.

She therefore stressed the need to return to face to face learning.

“There are significant gaps that are there that our children do have and we need to bring them back into that space where the assessments can be done, where the intervention plans can be created…” she remarked.

Furthermore, she said that “depending on the age of the child or the learning preferences everyone being online is not really having a terrific day.”

Meanwhile, Payne-Mascall spoke to some of the proposed upgrades to school facilities to ensure the protection of students and teachers.

She said that additional learning spaces will be procured to suit the number of students that will be at each site.

“Having gone into our schools we would have measured classrooms based on the social distancing protocol,” she detailed.

“And we have even gone to the extent to look at the water supply to ensure that we always have water on school plants…for some schools we are procuring manual pumps and in the event that our cisterns are not really standing up we are going to be putting some water tanks in place so that there is always water,” she added.

Also, additional desks, chairs, wash stations, soap and sanitizer dispensers, covered bins and protective equipment will be secured. From September 7, public school students are expected to return to school under a phased approach or schedule.

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