ANTIGUA — Harold Lovell, philanthropist, the leader of the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) and Senior Attorney said that this is no time for a political agenda but rather time to be people focused. Lovell recognized that the current COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact, not only on people’s health, but also on how they learn. Students from diverse backgrounds who are more at risk of increased vulnerability are less likely to receive the support and extra services they need.
He started his initiative to address the different needs of vulnerable students during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Vulnerable students might however have little access to digital tools and require further attention and support. To respond to the challenges they faced by members of his community. He recognized that some children are forced to use their parents’ devices and this could happen only when the parents are available, which most times, was outside of the regular school hours. Secondly, there are usually several children in the home who compete for equal times to share the same device. Another challenge being faced is that many parents cannot afford the cost to maintain regular supply of data on their devices.
Lovell started a specific initiative such as providing equitable and inclusive access to digital learning. The City East Solutions Centre was started out of the need to bridge the digital divide that was negatively affecting persons within the community.
The services at the City East Solutions Centre were devised to meet the need of the section of the population who were unable to access services.
1. Free Computer and Internet Access
Each week, from Monday to Friday – 2:00pm to 6:00pm, school children access the facility to do their research or to complete their assignments. Desktop computers are available for use. Students are allowed to use the devices for specific period at a time. The activities of the Centre are supervised by adult volunteers
2. Basic Computer Classes for Adults
One of functions of the facility is to improve the skill set of the adult population. Each Saturday, an instructor is retained to provide basic training to persons to make them more marketable. There is a great demand for this programme but the limited space and small number of devices determine the number of persons who can be reached. In addition to the computer access programmes, two other projects are undertaken at the facility.
3. After School Class
Students who are preparing for the Common Entrance Exams to get into high school, is a special target group. A teacher is retained to assist them with English and Mathematics. This takes place two days per week.
4. Teaching English as a second language
There is a growing Hispanic community in the area. For them to better adapt, weekly classes are held to teach them English.