Rhianna Mc Kenzie
EDUCATION and training have once again received the largest allocation of funds for the fiscal year 2022.
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert made the budget presentation in the House of Representatives on Monday.
Of the major allocations, education and training received $6.886 billion. The figure, however, is less than the fiscal 2021 allocation of $7.973 billion.
While Imbert did not give much detail on how the allocation will be distributed, he said some of the government’s initiatives from 2021 will continue to expand.
He said the government will continue to provide the public with free broadband access and information and communications technology (ICT) centres. He said the TT WiFi initiative will continue to benefit schools, libraries and transport hubs across the country.
At present, the rollout of TT WiFi is live at ten transport hubs and 16 libraries. The initiative will continue in 2022 driven by TSTT.
He said TSTT, in collaboration with internet service providers (ISPs), will roll out additional sites at all transport hubs, libraries, schools and health sites.
“ICT centres are already benefiting digitally under served communities,” he said, by providing training, printing, and scanning services to these communities.
He said the number of ICT centres will increase from six to 50 in the upcoming year.
Imbert acknowledged the closure of physical schools and its impact on the social development of students. He commended teachers on their transition to online schooling during the pandemic and their dedication to developing the ICT skills required.
He said, “We acknowledge nevertheless that the pandemic and the closure of physical schools have impacted our children’s physical interactions, social development and mental and emotional well-being.
“We wish to commend our teachers who have embraced the challenge to transition to new classroom methodologies, in particular online teaching. Many of our teachers serve the dual role of parent and educator and online education is here to stay.”
President of the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Antonia De Freitas said while the union had not agreed with the government on a blended learning approach as schools reopened physical classes on Monday, it would wait to see how the broadband and ICT programmes are rolled out.
“I can share a few experiences we had today,” she said. “Some teachers tried to log on and could not because of connectivity issues, in some cases because the bill was not paid.”
She said in other schools, the broadband was not sufficient and could not reach certain parts of the schools, leaving teachers without access.
“We will wait to see how that particular initiative will be implemented.”
Imbert said digital technology will remain relevant and many people now prefer electronic transactions as many businesses have adopted to digital projects to serve their customer base.
He said, “Digital skills training will be added to the in-person information technology training provided at the access centres: 10,000 people will be provided with digital skills training, followed by another 2,000 under an arrangement with the Microsoft Philanthropic Group.”
He said the government plans to connect at least 25 under served communities in 2022 and will continue the programme until TT is fully connected digitally.