EDITORIAL: Let’s support tablets for all students
While addressing a ceremony in his honour last Friday night, outgoing principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, used the story of his own hardships as a boy to call on authorities to appreciate the need to ensure that schools are provided with the required learning resources.
He spoke of always finishing at the bottom of his class while attending Coleridge & Parry School because he did not have books and could not do work at home. On the one occasion he had a textbook, Sir Hilary explained, he finished at the top of his class.
We don’t know Sir Hilary to be a man given to exaggeration so we take him at his word, and use the opportunity to remind all the players in education that the success of our children depends largely on everyone pulling their weight.
Given the number of stories teachers from just about every primary and secondary school tell, there are an increasing number of children who attend school daily without some of the most basic supplies – a situation that is too often compounded by inadequacy of diet.
And it does not make sense complaining about children having expensive bags or high-priced shoes, because if parents are imprudent enough to spend their money on these at the start of the term, no amount of talking will ease the plight of the child during the remainder of the school year. The administration of the schools, the PTAs and old scholars organisations have to get involved to assist in practical terms.
Concerning the critical issue of textbooks, however, by now it must be clear to all our education administrators that given current economic challenges and the need to engage more economically sensible arrangements as we come out of the recession, the current system of providing books for every secondary student is unsustainable.
The individual principals and their umbrella organisation, the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools (BAPPSS), must be given full support to get off the ground their initiative to provide tablets for all students on which their books would be pre-loaded in time for the start of the new school year in September.
This is not beyond us, not after we led the region decades ago with innovative projects such as EduTech. Unfortunately, we have fallen behind to the point where we make photo opportunities of presenting a dozen tablets to schools, while St Vincent is highlighting the distribution of 20 000.
Whatever its faults, if we had been wise enough to jettison what was not working or workable with EduTech and build on what was, by now all of our schools would have been centres of excellence as far as the use of digital technology as teaching/learning purposes is concerned. Instead, we chose to cloud the initiative in silly political posturing – to our own detriment.
Fortunately, it is not too late and we hope the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance will give full support to BAPPSS. Never again should one of our schoolchildren be able to say like Sir Hilary, “. . . growing up, the only book in my house was The Bible”. To the contrary, via a tablet each child today can now have access to more books than anyone who walked this earth before him or her.