The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the closure of schools across Member States and the transitioning to distance and blended learning. The OECS Commission, with assistance from GPE, sprang into action to implement its COVID-19 Response Strategy for the Education Sector in Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
This strategy, implemented through a US$3 million grant, focuses on four core areas: harmonization of policy response among Member States, transition to distributed learning, ensuring the well-being of students both in and out of school, and promoting engagement.
Among the specific interventions being implemented are the provision of approximately 11, 385 (10,885 for students and 500 for teachers) e-learning devices for students and teachers, training of over 1, 020 teachers in evidence-based approaches to online learning, implementation of an academic recovery program to mitigate against learning loss due to school closure, and provision of hygiene related supplies such as masks, hand sanitizer and water tanks to 5,420 children in the region (Dominica: 1,320 , Grenada: 1,000, St. Lucia: 1,100 and St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2,000).
These interventions are targeted at all government funded primary schools within the four countries.
The pandemic has had serious impacts outside the health and education sector. Because OECS’ Countries reliance on travel and tourism sector, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) expects Member States to experience a more severe economic contraction than developed countries and also face a longer road to recovery.
As highlighted by the InterAmerican Development Bank: “Caribbean countries have had to weather many storms in the past, but none that unleashed impacts quite like the coronavirus pandemic. Alongside the lives at stake are millions of livelihoods and understanding the economic forces at work is essential to planning a way forward for the region.”
In St. Lucia, the effect of the pandemic on the local economy has been severe. Providing safety nets for the families affected has been an immediate concern. This includes the creation of income generating activities as part of the recovery efforts.