Minister Valentin gives feedback on high-level Unesco ministerial meeting |06 April 2021
The pandemic’s impact on the education system has brought important lessons for the Ministry of Education and public schools, which was shared by the Minister for Education Dr Justin Valentin during a high-level Unesco ministerial meeting last week.
The virtual forum was organised online, gathering education ministers from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) member states to discuss and share experiences one year into Covid-19 in relations to education.
The meeting was held under the theme ‘One year into Covid-19: Prioritising education recovery to avoid a generational catastrophe’.
It also included three high-level round table discussions which focused on the following topics that have emerged as major concerns in all countries:
- Keeping schools open, prioritising and supporting teachers
- School and university drop-outs and learning loss
- Digital transformation and the future of education.
Seychelles’s education minister, Dr Valentin, participated in the third focus group, delving into the many ways countries have found innovative means to overcome school closures and still provide quality education.
Giving a feedback on the forum, Minister Valentin said: “I spoke about what Seychelles did during the restrictions such as the continuation of learning at home for primary schools up to university level, how teachers remained in contact with their students virtually.”
“A lot of creativity came out of the pandemic restrictions and I highlighted those creative instances. Additionally, I shared how the different partners in education came together to make distance learning happen and this for me is the most important and interesting lesson that I discovered in the pandemic,” said Minister Valentin.
Minister Valentin noted that the Unesco meeting provided a lot of food for thought and new initiatives to consider such as the setting up of a virtual school.
Schools in the country had to close in March and April 2020 when Seychelles got its first cases of Covid-19, and then again early this year when cases spiked.
Following the last closure, the Ministry of Education opted to implement an on and off model within public schools, the first ever time this model has been trialed in the country.
The on and off model sees different groups of students coming for in-school learning at weekly intervals, allowing for fewer students to be on the school compound at the same time and minimising contact.
Ensuring that an education catastrophe does not occur within a health catastrophe however is not merely the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, continued Minister Valentin, but also that of the parents.
“To avoid a catastrophe we also have to talk to a lot of partners including the Ministry of Social Affairs, Youth, Sport and Culture and others,” added the minister.
He highlighted that the on and off model is also an opportunity for small businesses to spring up and he encouraged parents, students and those in the community to be more innovative.
As for the laptop scheme which would provide laptops or tablets to students at an affordable price at a time when they need it most, Minister Valentin said that his ministry deems this scheme to be important but it first needs to come up with a financially sustainable plan to continue with it.