The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) would hereby like to inform the general public on the ongoing developments surrounding the impact of COVID-19 on the Education Sector.
Responsibility of School Boards to Report COVID-19 Related Matters
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge within the community of Sint Maarten and more specifically amongst the younger demographic, it is important that all schools report any COVID-19 related cases as soon as they are confirmed. This will allow the proper steps to be taken in order to further mitigate the spread of the virus within the community. As a part of Sint Maarten’s Education Continuity Plan, all Public and Subsidized Schools were provided with two forms which consists of step by step guidelines in the event a student or staff member has contracted the COVID-19 Virus. The two forms address specific steps to follow in the event that: A. The infected person is present at school, and B. The infected person is not present at school. Alongside these forms, the schools were also provided with a separate reporting form that addresses the specific scenario. School Boards are reminded to make use of the forms in the event a student or staff member has contracted the COVID-19 Virus.
School Fees/ Parental Contribution
Due to the pandemic, Sint Maarten like the rest of the world is currently experiencing economic hardship and as a result, parents may be less capable of contributing to school fees at this time. The Ministry of ECYS would like to remind all Public and Subsidized School Boards as well as the general community of Sint Maarten that according to the Ministerial Decree that establishes subsidies, school boards are not permitted to withhold books, progress reports or other learning material as a result of unpaid fees. The school fees also known as parental contribution are voluntary and therefore should have no consequences on students’ right to education. Therefore, school boards are kindly reminded that once utilizing public funds to deliver education, they are obliged not to withhold books, progress reports or other learning material from students in connection with the payment of school fees.
Ongoing Efforts to Supply Devices for Vulnerable Students
As a result of the local spread of COVID-19, all students were forced to adapt to a new online learning environment. The Ministry of ECYS is aware of the challenges that some students are currently facing and as such there have been ongoing efforts to facilitate these students. Part of the efforts consists of providing devices to vulnerable students, whose parents/guardians may not have access to the resources to be able to afford such devices. The Ministry of ECYS is currently in the process of finalizing efforts to make devices available to students who currently do not have them in their possession. Thus, it is our hope that through the many efforts being made by Government and private institutions and organizations, that all students will have access to education online.
Provision of Additional Resources for School Boards
The Ministry of ECYS is currently finalizing a policy framework to regulate the disbursement of subsidy to cover COVID-19 related expenses for all subsidized primary, secondary and advanced vocational education schools as well as the all Public Schools. The objective of the framework is to ensure that all schools can be provided with financial means to address the acute changes and requirements in the learning environment due to Covid-19. The framework takes into account the additional costs for personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies as well as for the training and development of teachers.
As the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport works towards establishing an enabling environment for Education Continuity during these challenging times, it is our hope that all students will be accommodated and would have adapted to the new online learning approach. The support and cooperation from the community of Sint Maarten, particularly teachers and parents, is sincerely appreciated and recognized.
We are stronger together!