Minister Shawn Richards address on Early Closure of Schools

Fellow citizens and residents, good day. Today, Tuesday, 24th March, 2020, I come once again to address you in my capacity of Minister of Education.

We have found ourselves, as a nation and as a world, facing the effects of a global pandemic of unprecedented magnitude. The corona virus, COVID- 19 continues to unleash a dynamic and alarming reality in its trail.

At the Ministry of Education, we continue to prepare for our nation’s students continued education as we observe more and more Caribbean countries closing schools with the report of a confirmed case of COVID -19.

We have been reviewing our nation’s reality as Term 2 progresses towards its end on 3rd April, 2020. We continue to allow the medical professionals and the COVID-19 Task Force to guide our decisions regarding the continuation or closure of our learning institutions. In this the penultimate week of the term, we have been assessing the recommendation for essential gatherings only and for practicing the social distance protocol.

I hereby reaffirm the Government’s, particularly the Ministry of Education’s commitment to ensuring the health and overall wellbeing of all within our learning institutions from early childhood to post-secondary education. The Chief Medical Officer and the COVID – 19 Task Force have therefore determined that it is now necessary to further heighten our national response to COVID-19. To this end, we have been advised that while education is an essential gathering, it is critically prudent for us, at this time, to close educational institutions earlier than previously scheduled. Thus, students will proceed on their Easter break from Monday, 30th March, 2020 provided that there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 before then. From 30th March, students would have three instead of two (2) weeks of Easter break. During the week of Monday, 30th March to Friday, 3rd April, 2020, teachers would remain at home unless asked to come out for training.

Because we have been diligently monitoring the presence of COVID – 19 within the region, we already have contingencies in place for our students’ education in the first 2 to 3 weeks of school closure. This is our first phase response.

It would be important to note that during the past week, teachers prepared students’ learning packages that the children within all government primary and secondary schools would be given to take home by Friday, 27th March, 2020. These educational packages are aimed at providing students with academic materials that they can work on to consolidate their learning. At this juncture, let me thank profusely our principals and teachers for working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that in the initial period of school closure students are not without stimulus educational materials.

Parents, you now have an even greater responsibility to ensure that your children are completing the assigned work in the learning packages that your children are bringing home. If your child/ward is without a learning package, please contact the school promptly.

Citizens and residents of our beloved Federation, it is heartening to be able to share with you that the Ministry of Education has over the past week, held meetings with corporate partners, specifically Flow and the Cable, who have committed their support to assist us in enhancing our communication with the public and also with the provision of alternative education platforms for use in the event of extended school closure. We are very grateful for the partnershipswith Flow and the Cable that are solid and timely investments in our nation, specifically in the area of education. This would enable our teachers to provide instruction to our students and self-paced learning resources for home use.

This is why I continue to assert that we are working assiduously to ensure that our children will not be devoid of instruction if we are faced with extended closure of schools.

Permit me here to publicly thank the Ministry of Education team particularly the Administrative department, the entire Education Planning Division (Curriculum Development Unit, Education Management Information System), Education Services department and the Education Media Unit for the sterling service given to the nation during this time when we have been working out Education’s response to close our schools temporarily and possibly for a protracted period.

The Ministry of Education will continue to update you in the coming days and weeks. In an era with the increasing incidence of what is now known as ‘fake news”, I encourage the general public to rely on official information about Education from the Ministry of Education. This can be accessed at our website: www.education.gov.kn , on the Visitor Channel for Cable subscribers, and also from the government’s official news sources.

I urge us all to comply with the Government’s informed decisions and recommendations which are undoubtedly in the best interest of the people of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. As a Christian nation, I also implore us all to embrace the words of Philippians 4: 6, “be anxious for nothing’ as well as the assurance of Psalm 46 verses 2- 3, “God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help…therefore we fear not…”.

May God continue to shield and bless the people of our beloved Federation. God bless you.

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