By Sydney Joa, 10th grade journalist
From the moment that COVID-19 arrived in the Dominican Republic, the government has been forced to adapt to the reality that the virus has presented. They have had to create and enforce measures that would counteract the spread of the virus in the education sector, while still ensuring students receive the best tutelage possible with the materials available.
Although the private sector could transition with no difficulty from in-person classes to virtual classes, the public sector has been a particular challenge for the government and the Ministry of Education to face due to lack of resources. According to the 2018 National Household Survey released by the Dominican National Statistics Office, out of 40 thousand respondents, 75% did not have access to internet services at home, and over 90% did not have either a laptop or a desktop computer. This led to teachers having to rely on the phone messenger platform WhatsApp to salvage what was left of the 2019-2020 school year back in March.
This fall, however, the Ministry of Education needed to reevaluate the educational model for the public sector, taking into full account the technological resources required. They decided that as of September 18th, teachers would be trained to use technological devices and on November 2nd, the school year would formally begin. Furthermore, the Ministry decided to distribute over 300,000 computers and tablets that would have the connectivity required to study from home to both students and teachers. Radios and televisions would also be used for the transmission of educational content.
Students also have platforms such as iq.edu.do, educando.edu.do, and enlinea.minerd.gob.do available for any repository content they might need. Additionally, students will receive printed educational material that must be collected at their respective schools during pre-established times. As for any needed finances, the Ministry gave 380 million pesos to educational centers and school districts to use for any necessary resources.
Another issue that the Ministry had to address was the wellbeing of the students. According to UNICEF, the food students receive at school is often the only meal they receive per day, and since schools are remaining closed due to COVID-19, millions of students are not receiving the nutritious meals they need. For these reasons, the Ministry of Education through the National Institute for Student Welfare (INABIE) is delivering food rations to students across the country every week as a guarantee of their sustenance during this quarantine period.
The country is currently facing a watershed moment that should be used to reinforce and improve education for the public sector effectively and equitably to ease learning for everyone. The government and the Ministry of Education should additionally start preparing for the potential reopening of schools in a way that ensures the safety of students and staff alike while at the same time reforming a system that operates in a way that can further refine the level of education in the Dominican Republic.