OECS-GPE COVID-19 response program creates community-based employment

A multi-pronged approach in the GPE’s OECS partner countries is helping mitigate the education, health and economic impact of COVID-19.

November 15, 2021 by OECS Commission
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3 minutes read
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Students during a science and math class at the Mon Dudon primary school in Saint Lucia. April 2019. Credit: Marcellus Albertin
Students during a science and math class at the Mon Dudon primary school in Saint Lucia. April 2019.
Credit: Marcellus Albertin

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.

Cindy Jno-Baptist using her sewing machine to sew masks. Credit: OECS Commission
Cindy Jno-Baptist using her sewing machine to sew masks.
Credit:
OECS Commission

In this context the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia is taking the need to provide masks to all primary school students as an opportunity to play its part in pushing community- based employment.

The Ministry is hiring a contractor who has agreed to employ seamstresses from the community to manufacture the masks. This ensures that money spent on hygiene supplies benefits the back the income of the local community, particularly for those who need it most.

According to one of the seamstresses, Cindy Jno-Baptist:

“Upon receiving the offer to sew the masks, I was really excited. It was a great and welcomed opportunity. I was grateful and thankful for the opportunity it provided in helping to care for my family, especially in these challenging times. With COVID-19 business was slow and the future seemed very uncertain. In addition, I have a child who has an intellectual disability and the pressure to provide for his basic needs were great.

Sewing the masks taught me to work skillfully, with confidence, accuracy, discipline and most importantly to develop the art of time management. I enjoyed every moment of it. Thank you to the OECS and the Ministry of education through GPE for selecting me to be part of this great move to keep our children safe.

According to the Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia, “The Ministry is pleased to be partnering with the OECS Commission and GPE to go beyond providing direct funding in response to the challenges within the education sector brought about by the pandemic but also offering indirect support to the local economy through the creation of jobs at the community level to vulnerable families, one household at a time.”

It is expected that these masks will form part of the 1,100 hygiene kits to be distributed to Primary school students in time for the reopening of schools.

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