Webinar: Partners meet on responses to COVID-19 pandemic | 30 June 2020
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) facilitated a webinar for the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development of Seychelles with international partners, on Tuesday June 23, 2020.
The aim of the meeting was to discuss how to continue providing an inclusive and equitable quality education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Firstly, Unesco enquired what measures Seychelles had taken during the COVID-19 outbreak period to ensure that the education of learners continued and also, challenges Seychelles encountered.
Secondly, Unesco wanted to inform the international partners who are willing to provide solutions to Seychelles, in case there is another school closure due to COVID-19.
The webinar was chaired by Anne Thérèse Ndong-Jatta, the director of Unesco regional office for Eastern Africa and co-chaired by Jeanne Simeon, the Seychelles Minister for Education and Human Resource Development. Other high-level officials present included the principal secretary for Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Odile De Comarmond; the principal secretary for Tertiary Education and Human Resource Development, Dr Linda Barallon; the chief executive of the Institute for Early Childhood Development, Shirley Choppy; the chief executive of the National Institute of Science, Technology and Innovation, Xavier Estico and the Dean for the Faculty of Arts and Social Development at the University of Seychelles, Joelle Perreau. The secretary general, Dr Marie-Reine Hoareau and the assistant secretary general, Vicky Gendron of the Seychelles National Commission for Unesco were also present.
In her statement, Minister Simeon described how learning continued online and offline during the COVID-19 pandemic. For schools and professional centres, learning continued through resources provided online, on USBs, CDs and also through printed handouts. Open Educational Resources (OER) were also provided on the ministry’s website for primary and secondary schools. Recorded lessons for primary and secondary schools were aired on the two main TV stations in the country: Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) and Telesesel. Additionally, for the University of Seychelles, teaching and learning and exams continued through Microsoft 365 Teams, Whatsapp, Zoom and Google classrooms.
The minister also highlighted challenges encountered such as the problem of equity, where not all learners could access educational materials online. Secondly, though audio visual materials were aired on SBC and Telesesel, it was not possible to cater for all the levels at the same time.
The third challenge was the need to train teachers to use online platforms and produce audio visual materials, in order to ensure quality education for the different categories of learners.
Following the minister’s statement, John Lesperance, the special advisor for Tertiary Education and Human Resource Development who was representing the principal secretary for Information and Communication Technology, Benjamin Choppy, informed that there are four operators offering internet facility in Seychelles. He continued by saying that the local network capacity is being upgraded and international connectivity is provided by the SEAS submarine cable system. The challenge is the limited ICT professionals with specialisations in ICT in education and teachers who are not properly trained in the use of ICT, as a pedagogical tool, or in the use of online platforms.
The international partners made their presentations to inform the ministry of the IT solutions on offer to Seychelles. Some partners presented courses available to train teachers to use online platforms. Some have online courses which cater for primary, secondary and also adult learners. Others have courses for the University of Seychelles as well as for the Seychelles Institute of Teacher Education. Furthermore, some international partners discussed IT equipment they can offer, to ensure offline learning. Some universities affiliated with Unesco can provide online courses for flexible learning by students and teachers.
After the presentations, Minister Simeon thanked Unesco for organising this webinar and linking the ministry with the international partners. She asserted that as the way forward, the ministry would discuss internally and select which partners will be solicited for their assistance, based on the ministry’s needs.
The minister concluded, “We have been caught off guard, but we need to be better prepared for the future. However, in the face of adversity, the ministry has surfaced stronger and more resilient.”
In her concluding remarks, Mrs Ndong-Jatta informed that Unesco will liaise with Seychelles in the coming days to see how Seychelles would like to engage with those international partners on an individual basis.