In many ways, the Cayman Islands is enjoying the rewards of its efforts to suppress the local transmission of COVID-19. Though the country still faces the challenges created by the loss of tourism, there is undoubtedly one sub-group benefiting from relaxed restrictions: students.
Local students resumed school in person this past fall, regaining their usual learning routines — something that could be viewed as a luxury amid current restrictions around the world.
Since schools reopened in September, Lyneth Monteith, acting chief officer for the Ministry of Education in the Cayman Islands, has observed local educators' efforts to restore students' learning routines impacted by the lockdown last spring.
"As a result of the fantastic job done by teachers in schools, the learning loss that occurred was minimised," she said. "As a matter of fact, schools that came out of the lockdown and underwent inspections [shortly thereafter], have shown improvements and certainly a decrease in the learning loss with their return to the physical classroom."
Even before the lockdown, public and private schools prepared themselves for the imminent changes coming their way.
"The Ministry of Education and the Department of Education Services produced continuity of education plans prior to the lockdown," Monteith said. "So we were ready to transition into that phase."
Monteith said that during that lockdown, students and teachers benefited from continued learning online, thanks in part to public-private partnerships that helped to source laptops and provide internet access where needed — which has since evolved into a government initiative to ensure all public school students have access to laptops and the internet.
The United Nations recently observed the International Day of Education, on which it said that learning institution closures and learning programme interruptions due to the pandemic have affected the lives of 1.6 billion students worldwide.
In light of this, the UN challenged the world to place education at the centre of recovery with the help of collaboration and solidarity at both a local and global level.
Glenda McTaggart, Dart's senior manager education programmes, said that Dart recognises the importance of education in Cayman's society and the negative impact a lack of resources and opportunities could trigger.
"The future success of the company, as well as the Cayman Islands, rides on an educated workforce that can grow and successfully lead," she said, adding that opportunities to bolster the learning of the "STEM" subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics through programmes such as Dart's Minds Inspired, could help yield solutions to global issues.
"The pandemic has reinforced the need for STEM education and has highlighted the importance of science locally and globally — it holds the answers to managing and ending the pandemic," she said.
"Had the local school closures continued, Dart's annual schedule of events would have been cancelled, making it difficult to support STEM programmes and student learning activities."
This article appears in print in the February 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times, written by Ariel Thomspon.