Ministry of Education (MoE) Systems Development Coordinator, Godfrey Munroe has said that the tendering for the remodeling of the necessary classrooms at the 11 schools which Cathy Hughes, a former minister in then Coalition Government said on Wednesday were installed and operationalised went out only late last year, as part of works under the 2020 budget.
The schools have been listed as Queens College, East Ruimveldt Secondary and Brickdam Secondary in the City; Leonora Secondary on the West Demerara; Skeldon Linepath Secondary, New Amsterdam Multilateral and Bush Lot Secondary in Berbice; President’s College and Soesdyke Secondary in East Demerara; Christianburg Secondary in Linden; and the 8th of May Secondary School on the Essequibo Coast.
Munroe revealed that though the equipment was procured and remains in the possession of the NDMA, it was not be handed over to the Ministry of Education or the schools since the requisite infrastructure was not in place.
As such, the smart classrooms at the schools were never operationalised.
“Part of the agreement is that the ministry was supposed to do the structural work to accommodate the equipment, and provide security,” Munroe explained in an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Friday.
Munroe’s revelations bring clarity to recent claims by Hughes, a former Minister of Telecommunications that the National Data Management Authority (NDMA) had already set up the smart classrooms at the 11 schools between 2015 to July 2020.
“The MoE was supposed to handle the infrastructural works, but for one reason or the other, there was undue delay in it. For many reasons it wasn’t able to be provisioned until recently when Budget 2020 made provision for them and with the awarding of contracts to get the work done. So some [schools] are ongoing and some would’ve been completed by now,” Munroe related.
In the 2020 budget, approximately $3 million each was allocated to get the classrooms operational.
“We’ve completed now with furnishing New Amsterdam Multilateral, Skeldon Line Path, President’s College, Leonora, and as we speak e-gov is actually installing the equipment at these schools to ensure that these rooms become functional,” he stated.
At New Amsterdam Secondary, Headteacher, Vanessa Chisholm, confirmed that works had only recently begun on that school’s smart classroom, and on Thursday two flat screen monitors were installed while on Wednesday the fibre optic-cables were placed and other infrastructure works are ongoing.
“It’s a boost to any subject area in terms of the teaching/learning experience, and our children would have access to so much information. It will benefit us in a lot of ways in our teaching/learning process and we can give support to other schools in other subjects area,” Chisholm comments
Works at the school is expected to be completed by next week, following which an official launch is schedule to be held to mark the official opening of the facility. Similar works were observed ongoing at the Skeldon Line Path Secondary, in East Berbice Corentyne when this newspaper visited the school.
The equipment for the classrooms include an interactive monitor, a voice activation, a motion sensor CCTV camera, surround speakers, networking infrastructure, and tablets for the interactive engagement. The equipment does not include desk top computers, one of the main differences between the smart classrooms and regular Information Technology (IT) laboratories that many schools already have.
“The smart rooms are separate from the IT labs. The IT labs have a different function and role, which is to allow students to be oriented for IT, and do EDPM and IT at the CSEC level and in a minor way allow teachers to use it to infuse technology into their lessons. With the smart classrooms the interactive board allows the teacher to manipulate it with their hands, transmit lessons from one room to many places and persons would allow participant not on site to interact fully with the people in the classroom etc,” Munroe explained.
Primarily the initiative is being touted as a revolutionary medium to bridge the differences in education delivery between the coastland and the hinterland. The project to set up the smart classrooms at the 11 schools would have been parcel to a US$37.6 million agreement signed in 2018 between Guyana and Chinese company, Huawei.
At that time the MoE was headed by former Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry. Calls made on Friday to Henry for a comment proved futile. The Guyana Chronicle was also unable to contact Hughes for a follow up comment.
Hughes’ made her comments on Wednesday during her party’s press conference and was later posted by her on her social media page.
Hughes was at the time rebutting a statement by current Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, who recently announced that the MoE has commissioned the second smart classroom in the public school system in the country, with the first being set up in 2014 at the North Ruimveldt Multilateral Secondary, and none being set up between 2015 – 2020 under the APNU+AFC Government.
Manickchand has since called on Hughes and other members of the APNU+AFC party to provide proof of any of the 11 smart classrooms which Hughes claims were created and operationalised between 2015 – July 2020.
Aside from the 11 classrooms, Hughes had also alleged that a smart classroom was set up at Kato Secondary in Region Eight.
Munroe also disclaimed knowledge of any smart classrooms that were previously set up in Regions One and Nine, under the MoE, while he noted that the Kato Secondary does not have a full smart classroom.
“Region Nine we are now putting in one at the St Ignatius School. At Kato Secondary there’s a smart board, and an IT lab there, but it’s not a smart classroom,” he told the Guyana Chronicle.
In addition to the smart classrooms being established at the 11 named schools, the ministry is also moving forward to add another 17 classrooms at varying schools, with work having already commenced on Santa Rosa, St Ignatius, Bygeval, Mahaicony, Parika Salem and West Demerara Secondary schools.