The COVID-19 pandemic not only resulted in a serious health crisis but also impacted the social sectors across the globe. One such sector badly hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown was the education sector. The pandemic has had a major impact on the education of Caribbean students, with the closure of education facilities from March 2020 onwards impacting nearly 12 million learners in 29 Caribbean countries. School closures, interruption to classes and the cancellation or postponement of assessments and examinations have all had detrimental consequences on children’s academic development.

To address this crisis, Learning Recovery and Enhancement Programme known as Let’s REAP was developed collaboratively among the CARICOM Secretariat, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and launched in July 2021. The focus of Let’s REAP! is to promote learning improvement in light of the challenges to education brought about by COVID-19. However, the programme also intends to address longer-standing issues which the pandemic has exacerbated, as well as to build the resilience of national education systems to the occurrence of other natural hazards (such as flooding, hurricanes, and volcanic activity) prevalent in the region.
The programme is designed for systemic integration across four locations (regional, national, schools, community) with nine components of activity. The nine components of Let’s REAP! are: 1. Leadership and accountability 2. Management and communication; 3. Regional and national partnerships 4. Teacher support and collaboration (school-based TPD and CoPs); 5. Formative assessment; 6. Inclusion, SPED, wellbeing; 7. Resources and curriculum; 8. Engagement with parents and family; 9. Engagement with community and community organisations.

Let’s REAP is working towards realising its objectives of increasing equitable access to quality education and training, enhancing learning outcomes for students, and increasing their capacity to meet grade level expectations. Approximately 15,000 educators from the Caribbean CARICOM are set to benefit from professional development training specially designed for them to assist students in overcoming the learning losses occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This training programme was announced at a recent consultation in which senior education officials, national Let’s REAP focal points and representatives from the CARICOM Secretariat and CDB discussed the progress of implementation, funding support, capacity building, and the approach to programme monitoring and evaluation.

Programme Manager for Human Resource Development within the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr Laurette Bristol said the implementing partners, in responding to the expressed needs for professional development training by the national focal points, reached out to the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Joint Boards of Teacher Education to design a training programme in the areas identified for support by national focal points.

Dr. Coreen Leacock, Academic Coordinator for the Eastern Caribbean Joint Board of Teacher Education, said the 45-hour course will focus on three core components of Let’s REAP: leadership and accountability, formative assessment, and communities of practice. To support sustainability of implementation across the region, the UWI Joint Boards of Teacher Education will collaborate with the teacher training institutions across the Region, in rolling out the training programme.

CDB’s Education Specialist, Dr Paul Murphy shared that the Bank will coordinate funding support for Let’s REAP capacity development and institutional strengthening through various sources. These include grant resources, existing and new projects in CDB Borrowing Member Countries, collaboration with other development partners, and through the public sector investment programmes of Member Countries. Director of the Human and Social Development Directorate within the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms Helen Royer, reminded that Let’s REAP was developed to enhance the capacity of principals, teachers and the general school community to use available resources to remediate and accelerate student learning. “Let’s REAP is not a project, but a school transformation programme that is part of the common core school improvement process. It pays attention to good practices being engaged and supports the documentation of same,” Ms Royer stated.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava

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