Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Education, during the debate on the 2021 Budget. (Image courtesy Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago)

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly has confirmed that 90 per cent of the nation’s students are accessing education online.

Speaking during the budget debate, the Education Minister said some 176,000 students were expected to commence schooling when the new term started in September. She said the ministry has been tracking the educating process and it has been working.

“Based on our weekly analysis of the daily attendance data and the trends, 90 per cent of these students are engaged in online classes at this time,” the Minister asserted, “with the other 10 per cent collecting package work, whether it is hard copy or by electronic means.”

The minister also said that all teachers who indicated they needed laptops were provided with such equipment.

She told Parliament approximately $100 million has been set aside in this fiscal year to provide devices and connectivity for students and teachers.

She revealed that 5,000 laptops already have been distributed to students with special needs.

The minister also spoke of the private sector, whom she said has pledged $50 million worth in devices for students.

“The Adopt-a-School programme of the ministry has pledges of over 17 thousand devices for children. These devices have begun to arrive and are now being distributed around the country to the children,” she reported.

She described the response from the corporate sector as extremely commendable.

Member of Parliament for Tabaquite, Anita Haynes, at her maiden contribution as a member of the House of Representatives, during debate on the 2021 Budget. (Image courtesy Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago)

Meanwhile, Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes had questions about the laptop distribution process.

During her contribution to the budget debate, MP Haynes questioned whether those students who are in need are the recipients of the devices.

She maintained that equal access to learning must be the priority of every government.

“And so we must ask that these laptops that you are asking for donations for, are they being distributed equitably? Are we sure, Madam Speaker, that the students who are most in need are the recipients of these devices?” the MP queried.

MP Haynes also made a case that some school children in rural communities would be left behind.

She said the MyFi initiative announced by Finance Minister Colm Imbert may not be for the benefit all off students.

“I have to ask why are you ignoring rural communities in this country? When the Member of Parliament for Moruga/Tableland came here and said there was no connectivity, she’s not making that up, you know, Madam Speaker. It is a fact that if you bring in this MyFi service and you don’t have 3G and 4G, it will not work. So these students are still going to be left out,” Haynes argued.