SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Member of Parliament for the Party For Progress (PFP) Faction, Melissa Gumbs submitted critical questions on Monday, 25 January 2021, to the Honorable Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport, Minister Rodolphe Samuel requesting answers for various projects and project planning within the ministry.
Gumbs notes in her letter that given the COVID-19 situation in country Sint Maarten, a variety of sectors and industries were severely affected, with education taking the brunt after tourism. COVID-19 safety measures required schools to make a sudden shift to online learning, which proved a jarring experience for teachers, students and parents alike.
“Aside from exposing how behind we are on 21st century learning techniques and technology,” Gumbs said in a media comment, “COVID-19 further highlighted the serious gaps in tech and internet access for schools and homes.”
Gumbs provided her questions to Minister Samuel under three main topics: the iStep project, the Trust Fund allocation to the Ministry of ECYS, and the much-discussed digital infrastructure project that is underway at certain public schools. Gumbs asked what the status of the iStep project was, and whether or not devices are still being distributed to students. She also queried what database management methods are being applied to the distribution, to make sure that Government is aware of what devices are going to which school or classroom.
“It is my hope that Government has implemented data management,” Gumbs explained in her media statement, “because knowing what device has been given to what school or which teacher helps with providing IT-based support.”
In a recent Parliament meeting on the state of monuments, it was mentioned that $30 million had been allocated from the Trust Fund to the Ministry of ECYS, which Gumbs recounts in her letter. She asked the Minister to confirm the allocation and to clarify whether it was $30 or $35 million. She also requested a list of specific projects that these monies have been allocated towards, and whether there have been any projects presented to the Steering Committee from the Ministry of ECYS.
Bringing her letter to a close, Gumbs requested that Minister Samuel provide an update on the re-cabling and network improvement activities at the public schools that were, to Parliament’s understanding, being executed by Telem Group.
“2020 was a trying year for education on St. Maarten,” Gumbs concluded in her media statement. “But there is no going back to “the before. I sincerely hope that the Minister has received the lessons of last year and is working to apply them for 2021 and beyond. Executing existing and future projects will determine our education sector’s resiliency to external shocks, which is a critical factor in our overall resilience as a country.”