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Education Officials refute Ashley’s Learning Center claims; announce no solution to its pending closure

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Editor

 

#TurksandCaicos, July 15, 2022 – The country had only heard glowing sentiments about Ashley’s Learning Center, a seven year old special needs school located in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos but a week ago on July 8 that all changed when a high level team from the TCI’s Ministry of Education held a press conference to rebut statements made by Angela Williams of ALC the day before.

Williams said a $70,000 grant, previously pre-approved by government was withdrawn when she refused to sign a binding agreement which she believes would compromise the quality of learning and care at ALC.

Thousands reacted with outrage at the announcement of the possible closure of the center and denial of funds by the Government.  The Ministry of Education however said, the version of circumstances presented by Angela Williams at her press event on July 7, were inaccurate.

From Rachel Taylor, Minister of Education: “Contrary to what may have been making rounds in social media yesterday, we as a Ministry remain committed to supporting our students and families, especially those with special needs.

Of paramount importance, I wish to address the misleading claims voiced by Ms. Williams, founder of Ashley’s Learning Center which were levied against the Ministry of Education and by extension, the Turks and Caicos Islands Government indicating that we failed to provide the requested financial support to aid in the continued operation of this institution… these statements are without merit.”

Minister Taylor called Angela Williams a “dear friend” and explained the long and strategic partnership with Ashley’s Learning Center has only been embraced by the Ministry.  She said this posture is held by the MoE with any private school assisting with the placement of students.

“We are open to receiving support, to providing support to anyone who wants to partner with the ministry towards meeting the needs of our students, however, we want to emphasize that  in doing so, there are standards that must be met.  We continue to have report of schools, in particular, with parents complaining  that their students are not getting the proper support that they need.  In this case, we have been working with the school, Ashley Learning Center, to provide the support to bring them up to the standard that we want,” explained Wesley Clerveaux, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education speaking during the press conference which was carried live.

Suddenly, with these characterizations, the school’s founder and its method of operation were put in a far less favourable spotlight.

While Ashley’s Learning Center had passed a site inspection and gained a “satisfactory” rating from the Ministry of Education on the suitability of its facility, this was not the same outcome for students’ time in class or in session in person.

“…in compliance with the guiding regulations, my team conducted a comprehensive assessment of the center to ensure compliance of the special education policy prior to the allocation of fund, this  is something anyone would do if they are going to give that sum of money to anyone or any organization,” the Minister said parents concerns about contact time were confirmed, “However there were major concerns in regard to program remediation, student contact time…” said Minister Taylor, who also shared the proposal for additional funding from ALC came in September 2021.

She said despite the unsolicited concerns from parents about contact time, the ministry was prepared to proceed to the next step to approve the additional funding to Ashley’s Learning Center, which already receives over $30,000 in government monies annually which meet the salary of one teacher and school fees of a few children.

“We were very content to the next step in an effort to award the additional funds as proposed,” said the minister.

However, it seemed the gulf on the clause within the contract was too great.   Williams said she was advised it would be detrimental and rejected the counter proposal by the Ministry of Education’s team.

Jas Walkin, the Special Needs Officer for the Ministry of Education said he often experienced confusion when dealing with ALC.

“One of the consistent challenges that we have experienced, is often times what is discussed and agreed in meetings with the proprietor of that school, when we would have left that meeting it’s a totally different interpretation.   And I believe that is what has matriculated yesterday and it is what I was so disappointed in.”

Walkin denied that the Ministry of Education has a “personal problem” with her yet, there were a steady stream of statements which make cloudy the reputation of the school and Williams; at one point the minister said Williams falsified information to her office.

“It was mentioned that there were 10 additional students what would benefit from that $71,000, actually that ten did not exist.  It was for the existing cohorts who are currently at the school,” said Rachel Taylor, TCI Minister of Education, Labour, Employment and Customer Service.

What however was missing in the press event was an announcement about where the students, who would no longer have Ashley’s Learning Center come September, would be placed.

“The money will still be there, the $30,000 for the teacher.  The money will still be there to assist her.  It is still there to assist.  We are not taking away anything.  Not anything we are taking away.  The $71,000, and as the minister, I must make it clear, was supposed to unpack an additional 10 students.  That didn’t exist. The students were there already.”

Each official rolled out a string of special needs programs and new funding on the horizon to support the near 200 special needs children in Turks and Caicos; including a document outlining a plan for a special needs center to house 60 students.

But to meet the immediate need of the displaced students of Ashley’s, there was no solution.

Caribbean News

Senior Teacher Endorses Robot to Assist in Educating Infant and Primary School Students

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KINGSTON, April 17 (JIS):
Senior Teacher at Alpha Infant School, Sabrina Raymond-Hunter, has endorsed the ‘ICHEETAH’ robot, a smart educational AI-powered tool that will advance the way young children learn and interact with technology.
The robot, developed by CHEETAH Toys and More, LLC, is designed to engage and educate children at the infant and early-primary levels of education in a fun and interactive manner, supporting their cognitive development and preparing them for future academic success.
Speaking at a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank on April 16, Mrs. Raymond-Hunter recognised the potential of this cutting-edge technology and its ability to enhance the learning experience for young children.
“I am really excited about this product. I was able to get this into my classroom of 23 students and they are super excited about this. We have had it for three weeks and this is a game changer,” she said.
The Senior Teacher, who also serves as the school’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Designate, added that the students’ learning has been enhanced since incorporating the technology into her teaching.
“It has enhanced it a lot because you know the boys, especially, once they are happy and find something that is fun, they will want to do it. My boys started off a little bit rocky, but since they got this robot, they are spelling, identifying words and reading,” she noted.
Having yielded positive results from utilising the technology, Mrs. Raymond-Hunter is encouraging other schools who are not yet on board to do so.
“I’m encouraging all the other schools to get on board, and if for any reason you need a demonstration, come to Alpha. I’ll show you exactly how we use it to get our students on board and on level with everyone else. Learning should be fun, and with iCHEETAH it definitely is,” she shared.
The robot is outfitted with several interactive features, including voice recognition, games, and educational content, making learning engaging and exciting for young learners.
CONTACT: SHERIKA HALL

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Caribbean News

HACKATHON TO EMPOWER CARIBBEAN GIRLS TO BECOME LEADERS IN STEM SECTOR

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KINGSTON, April 12 (JIS):

eLearning Jamaica Company Limited (e-LJAM) has partnered with local educational technology company, STEAMHouse, in hosting this year’s Crea+her Girls in ICT Hackathon, which began on April 11 and will end on April 16.

The virtual hackathon seeks to empower Caribbean girls aged 13 to 18 years to become leaders and accomplished professionals in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry.

Chief Executive Officer of e-LJAM, Andrew Lee, said the initiative allows participants to acquire skills through a hands-on approach.

“It is imperative that we actively engage girls to participate in STEM. Historically, girls have been under-represented in this field and, of course, this deprives us of diversity. Our females are extremely talented and when we include them, we get a broader perspective,” Mr. Lee told JIS News.

e-LJAM is the State agency with responsibility for promoting integration and infusion of technology in the public education system.

Founder of STEAMHouse, Godiva Golding, told JIS News that approximately 15 teams representing groups of three to five students signed up for the hackathon.

The participants are being guided to develop innovative solutions combining themes such as telecommunications, cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence, focusing on areas like education, environmental sustainability and preserving cultural heritage.

(more)

Hackathon to empower…2

Their prototypes will be evaluated on April 18 and the top-10 creations will be presented on April 25, which is being recognised as International Girls in ICT Day under the theme ‘Leadership’.

Ms. Golding is pleased to have e-LJAM as the title sponsor for the hackathon and other events around International Girls in ICT Day.

“We could not think of a better partner than e-LJAM. They have been at the forefront and have done great work over the years. Having a partner with the leadership of Mr. Lee on board is just the icing on top to ensure that this is a successful series of events,” Ms. Golding said.

A special school tour will also be conducted. At least 500 girls are expected to benefit from this programme, which will offer interactive sessions and networking opportunities with accomplished women leaders in the technology field.

Additionally, the participants will have the chance to develop vital skills, such as public speaking, strategic thinking, and confidence-building.

CONTACT: ROCHEDA BARTLEY

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Caribbean News

Efforts to deliver education to Children in Haiti – Schools still closed

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Rashaed Esson

Staff Writer

 

#Haiti#Education, April 9, 2024 – With schools across Haiti still shut down due to intense gang violence, UNICEF is making efforts to deliver education to students, working with the Ministry of Education. They are trying to deliver distance learning through radio, television and e-learning platforms and right now, solutions are being explored through Haiti’s national radio station. Announced in a press release by UN News on April 7, this comes as UN agencies warned that Haitian children are suffering from not just a lack of education but also primary exposure to violence.

 

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