Arguing that students across the Caribbean are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, several youth leaders in the region say, despite numerous interventions and best efforts from policymakers, some of their peers are at risk of being left behind .
The youth leaders, who were part of a panel at the 17th annual Caribbean Children’s Research Conference on Thursday, said to ensure the event’s theme, ‘Leaving No Child Behind – The UN 2030 Agenda and Convention on the Rights of the Child in a Post-COVID -environment” becomes more than a slogan, regional governments should use ground-based research to develop holistic strategies rather than taking unified measures.
The two-day event, hosted by the University of the West Indies (UWI) Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund for the Eastern Caribbean, is a regional interdisciplinary conference bringing together a range of children – Related topics.
Ajay Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago said in his remarks: “Although we are physically back in school at this point, we are only now seeing the downside of the pandemic.”
According to Gordon, who says he teaches English and biology, “We saw students pass by a hair’s breadth on the Secondary Entrance Assessment (similar to Jamaica’s Primary Exit Profile exams) and then get transferred to college and high school without proper knowledge of subject verbs, the reasons we have letters in math – small areas where students have big problems.
“I wonder how these students will be able to enter and thrive in the CXC field in two to three years. This is not possible. In my opinion, what needs to be done is to diversify our educational offerings. It just means that not everyone has to be an academic,” Gordon explained, adding that post-pandemic, he’s found students are “over-sexualized” and not even interested in extracurricular activities.
“The social construct of our grammar schools has shifted significantly,” he appealed to politicians.
“Yes, we don’t want to leave a child behind, but we also don’t want a big policy that doesn’t trickle down to the little man and doesn’t affect the people it’s intended for,” Gordon said when called for on-site surveillance implemented measures.
St Lucia’s Jean-Luc Constantine further commented, saying while every sector has suffered losses, many people, including himself, see education as “the greatest loss”.
He argued that while political leaders and the sector have recognized the devastation suffered by students, they have “simply been thrown back into post-COVID normality.”
“It wasn’t an easy transition from face-to-face to online learning, then to blended learning, and then online again and then face-to-face again. It’s taken a heavy toll on my overall health,” Constantine said.
“After talking for so many months about COVID-19 and its impact, how can we really ensure as a society that no child is left behind? Whether we recognize it or even want to admit it, we are still affected by COVID-19 and yes, we have made significant strides as a region to address the digital divide issue on our islands and we have ensured that our Students can overcome learning losses and their psychosocial needs can be met, but what about the frustrated student, the overwhelmed student, the one who had to overcome the PTSD of the tragic incident of COVID-19 but is still suffering? he wanted to know.
He argued that the solution was not a one-size-fits-all solution and said the region should come together to arrive at a coherent plan.
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Danielle Mullings, in her presentation titled “Imagining a Healthy Digitally Connected Caribbean,” said that “the demands of a healthy digital ecosystem are what we will need post-COVID.”
Mullings argued that technology should be used in the future, given its pervasiveness, and advocated greater access to learning, which she termed “digital life skills”.
Because “technology is a key element in the functioning of society, Mullings says a technological focus must be part of any No Child Left Behind push.”
“To move forward, we need affordable and quality devices, and along with that public education and increased digital literacy, especially when we’re talking about young children,” she said while campaigning for affordable internet and electricity access.
The virtual conference ends today, Friday, November 25th.