With the COVID-19 pandemic creating a profound disruption in the delivery of education, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has sought to address the challenges of disadvantaged students enrolled at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Last Thursday, CDB’s Board of Directors approved a US$200,000 grant to assist students who lack technological devices and internet access, and face being left behind their peers in the shift to remote learning. To this end, UWI will use a portion of the funds to purchase information and communication technology and other remote learning solutions for students.
The grant will also fund the expansion of the tertiary institution’s capacity to deliver remote education for all.
“While it’s been necessary to protect the wider population, evidence has shown that the sudden shift away from face-to-face lectures to remote learning has proven difficult, particularly for the most vulnerable, such as women, rural learners, students with disabilities and those from lower socio-economic circumstances,” Deidre Clarendon, division chief of the Social Sector Division at CDB, explained.
“Inequitable education delivery negatively impacts both the individuals and the wider society, which is why CDB is supporting this project. It offers The UWI an opportunity to work collaboratively across campuses to address the challenges faced by the most disadvantaged students as it expands remote teaching and learning during the COVID-19 restrictions,” she added.
Under this grant-funded project, titled Addressing Inequities in Online Teaching and Learning at the University of the West Indies’, both regional institutions will aim to address how online line has created a disadvantage for vulnerable students on multiple fronts, using data from student surveys.
Across The UWI’s five campuses, some 228 students will receive computing devices and 70 students will gain access to internet service for one semester.
“Inequitable education delivery negatively impacts both the individuals and the wider society, which is why CDB is supporting this project.”— Deidre Clarendon, division chief of social sector, Caribbean Development Bank
With the procurement of other equipment, the project will enhance UWItv’s production and broadcast capabilities so that it can better meet the remote learning needs of all students. Course instructors and other university personnel will also have access to training for instructional television.
According to the CDB, the project forms part of its 2017 Education and Training Policy and Strategy, which affirms the bank’s commitment to addressing inequities to educational access and participation across its Borrowing Member Countries.
The grant comes less than two weeks since the CDB and The UWI signed a MOU to promote, among other things, the CARIFORUM-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) Standby Facility for Capacity Building. The MOU also entails using UWItv to ideate, develop and produce content that highlight the regional bank’s efforts in trade, regional cooperation and integration.