Government working with providers to ensure internet access for all learning institutions – Octavia Alfred

Education Minister Octavia Alfred says the government has been working with service providers to ensure that all learning institutions in Dominica have internet access.

“Our Information Technology (IT) Officers and technicians have been working to extend the WiFi to all schools to increase access in classrooms,” Alfred stated on a radio programme last week. “Community service being provided is really not up to us; it’s up to the service providers but the relevant ministry is engaging these people so that this happens.”

She said Information Technology (IT) officers and technicians have been working to extend WiFi service to all schools on the island and so far, the Ministry of Education has ensured that all 73 schools on the island have internet. Before schools closed, she said, 32 schools had internet in all classrooms.

According to the Minister, other measures include the provision of smart devices to all schools including secondary school students and teachers in the new year and completion of programmes for training in the use of technology for teachers and “especially parents.”

Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, Alfred gave the assurance that other support programmes including uniforms, textbooks, transfer fees, the school feeding programme and transportation, are all in place. She said the focus is now on new programmes and new systems to address new challenges.

“I think we have done all we can. All our parents have to do is to just trust the process and get their children ready for school,” the Education Minister advised.

Meantime, Alfred said the government was well on its way to fully embrace online learning, however, the passage of Hurricane Maria slowed down the process.

“Before COVID we were already well on our way; [as] a matter of fact, before Maria, we were almost there and Maria put everything down,” she explained. “And before COVID we were almost there because there were a number of schools who actually did their exams completely online and some partially online.”

She believes that COVID-19 has fast-forwarded the process of online learning, but cautions that in tandem with the rapid forward movement, consideration must be given to the need for children to understand what data they create and leave behind while using the Internet, “that they understand what it is to be responsible.”

Alfred noted that the measures must also be designed to help children and their parents, “because parents want to be involved.”

The digital changes notwithstanding, the Minister maintains that children must still be able to socialize.

“The school and the face-to-face will always have a place even as we engage our students to help them to become global digital citizens. We will still need our interrelationship skills which are actually built at school,” she declared.

Online learning, Alfred explained, does not necessarily entail sitting in front of a laptop all day long or that the internet is needed for 12 hours.

She said textbooks will still be used and school lessons can be downloaded on students’ devices.

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10 Comments

  1. Parallels
    August 27, 2020

    Community service? Oh boy, where do they get them!?

  2. Sylvester Cadette
    August 24, 2020

    I CONGRATULATE THE MINISTER for outlining in detail the measures taken to ensure that students are the education system is reasonably well prepared for the greater emphasis on Online Learning. I am also please with her note of caution, She did not pretend it was a perfect world and this is a fine approach. It’s like reminding yourself that there is still more to do. She also called on the parents.

    It is going to be a new challenge for parents as they get acquainted with all the technology but like bank cards (Debit/Credit) they will surely get there.

    Emphasis should be given to the integration of ICTs into the curriculum. In 2008/2009 our ministry of telecoms (while I was Director of Telecoms) developed guidelines for the integration of ICTs into subject areas for both primary & secondary Schools. Dr. Blaize and Goldberg worked on this but I am not sure if the Ministry of Education is using it (SUBJECT TO CORRECTION). If they are, or improve on it then great.

    • Dominican Teacher
      August 25, 2020

      Sylvester Cadette are you taking us for granted. You are congratulating for the outlined of measures. There was only one measure of putting wifi in school and the repetition of it.

      • Sylvester Cadette
        August 25, 2020

        No I am not taking you all for granted. There are a number of other issues that you are aware of that I may not be acquaited with. I chose to address the area of my expertise which is the subject of this article.

        while I enjoy a one pot hold all broth, in this case I do not relish it. Suffice it to say that putting wifi in schools encompasses not one measure but infrastructural issues, service issues, maintenance issues, quality of service issues, regulatory issues etc.

        I hope this helps – I do not take teachers for granted :) I used to teach too – at then St. Andrew’s High School. I also taught Physics at Clifton Dupigny Community College (now State College) :)
        Love and respect for your hard work and I hope all safety measures are put in place for all teachers before your return to the classroom.
        LOVE YOU my compatriot

  3. Roger Burnett
    August 24, 2020

    The internet offers more than the structured pattern of learning taught in classrooms. It opens up a whole new world of discovery. It facilitates one thing to lead to another and one contact to lead to another.

    Without the resources of the internet, I would not have been able to put into practice the techniques I use for making fine art paper from Dominica’s natural resources or for developing my concept in fashion designs for the tropics. And that’s not counting the reliance I place on it for my work as an engineer and as a painter and sculptor. Very often the answer to a problem comes from someone at the other side of the world. In turn, I share my lifetime’s experience in engineering and the creative arts with others throughout the world.

    I spent zero time on Facebook, but each day I spend hours on line doing research and contributing to the research of others. The internet is one of the most creative resources ever inventive. I would be lost without it.

    • Sylvester Cadette
      August 24, 2020

      I could not have said it better. Thanks to you Sir for constantly encouraging the youth.
      I pray the Ministry of Education pay special attention to your constant plea about STEAM learning and the ultimate necessity of creativity and art in developing concepts for technological advancement and innovation. I notice you mention paper. I wonder what your research is on the banana stem. I heard that a university in Australia was doing research in that area. I note you also mention fashion.
      These two areas may well be platforms for building a new entrepreneurial class of young tech entrepreneurs.

      I believe that as a matter of policy, among the other areas you have highlighted, the State College should offer
      Mechanical Engineering Drawing,
      Building Drawing (Technical Drawing),
      Building and Furniture Technology,
      Mechanical Engineering Technology & Technology Education.

      Now I know it require resources but we must get serious about innovation and we will find the resources.

      • Roger Burnett
        August 25, 2020

        Thank you Sylvester.

        The banana stem is potentially as valuable as the fruit. The fibers can be used for making high quality paper and thread for textiles. Bank notes in some far eastern countries are made from banana paper and the same fibers are used to reinforce vehicle tires. A number of universities are researching the potential of this valuable resource – a resource which at present we leave on the ground to rot.

        My experiments into the banana stem’s sculptural possibilities are touched upon in my DNO Commentary:
        https://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/commentary-the-creative-potential-of-dominicas-natural-resources/

        • Sylvester Cadette
          August 25, 2020

          Thanks so much Roger. This will serve as a platform for me to further inquire and research on the fibres of the banana stem. Most appreciated.

  4. Pipo
    August 24, 2020

    Please Octavia, hurricane Maria happened three years ago and areas like Roseau were restored long since then. You of all people can not claim credit for this after telling off the student so badly when she dared to complain about non existent internet service and expensive wireless phone data service holding back students development. You should have apologised really but maybe that is expecting too much and humility is not in your character.

  5. Batibou River
    August 24, 2020

    Words, words and more words. As ever this government shows its incompetence. They only thing they are really good at is corruption and deceiving the citizens of Dominica.

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