Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves believes it to be unreasonable to expect the government to repair or replace tablets given to students to facilitate online learning, less than one year after they were distributed.
The verdict is still out on how many tablets are in a state of disrepair, despite students returning to the classroom this week virtually due to the ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases.
“We don’t know yet how many of the students have had their devices to the point of being inoperable because I get all kind of anecdotal evidence, anecdotal stories, you get people tell you 10 per cent of the 30,000 we had purchased over the year and distributed from the primary school classes right up to community college, that maybe 10 per cent can’t work,” Gonsalves said on NBC radio on Wednesday as he gave an update on several issues.
He said he has heard that the possibility exists that the figure could be up to and even more than 20 per cent of the devices.
And the prime minister expressed disappointment as it appears that the devices were not properly cared for.
“Of course, you may have some where the screen gets broken and something happens to the device because of misuse or abuse, that they can’t function, it needs substantial repairs or perhaps new ones,” he noted. “But some of those which are not functioning may well be some software issues and that, I’m advised, is an easier problem to handle.”
Gonsalves agreed that the damaged tablets will no doubt hinder online learning, both at this time and when a blended approach is implemented sometime soon.
“The teachers will have to find out and the parents will have to indicate to the teachers what is the situation, but it’s not reasonable to be asking the government where we just spent several millions of dollars buying these 30,000 devices, to ask the government within a year, in some cases, within months, to have to replace them,” he said.
The prime minister however, gave the assurance that his government will do its best in the circumstances to address the issue.