On Monday, The Bahamas officially launched the Government’s Over-the-Hill Rejuvenation Pre-Assessment Phase Programme with the first of its effort: a pilot eLearning project at the Willard Patton Preschool.
The eLearning Pilot Project hopes to increase digital literacy and use of technology in the classroom for the country’s youngest students. With expanded funds, preschoolers will be provided with tablets and accompanying educational software. Their learning management system (LMS) will also allow teachers and parents to access their kids’ progress and performance.
Once the rollout is complete, eleven preschools will benefit from the program: six on New Providence (the country’s biggest island which includes Nassau), and five in the Family islands.
Development Over the Hill throughout the Country
The Willard Patton Preschool is located in Nassau’s Over-the-Hill neighborhoods, which refers to historically lower-class regions of the city that were initially divided from the commercial center by the British Governor’s land holdings.
The newly elected Prime Minister Hubert Minnis grew up in one of these neighborhoods, and his expansive government program seeks to combat poverty and gang activity with wide ranging efforts. Among other things, he hopes to encourage business development in certain parts of the city, the use of green technology, and an improved public education system to empower Bahamas’ youth.
“I am grateful that the Ministry of Education agreed to include in the Pilot [the] Willard Patton [Preschool], the only stand-alone Preschool in the Over-the-Hill Community,” Prime Minister Minnis said on Monday, according to The Bahamas Weekly.
“We are seeking to equalize opportunities for education for all children in The Bahamas,” Minnis continued. “The circumstances of birth should never hold anyone back from succeeding in life. We encourage the continued support of parents in this initiative. Your participation will make a positive impact in their lives.”
Other aspects of the plan will involve economic incentives, other youth initiatives, and an expansion in telecommunications infrastructure to bring Wi-Fi to Over-the-Hill residents.
According to a 2013 report by the International Telecommunications Union, over 70% of The Bahamas residents use the internet (but only 2% have fixed broadband connections).
To fund the effort, Minnis has committed $5 m annually from the federal government.
“In November 2014, some three years ago, I outlined some of my vision for Over-the-Hill communities,” Minnis said, according to Tribune242. “In this vision I saw our inner-city communities more empowered. I saw residents and businesses participating in the revitalization of their communities. I saw special economic zones with tax incentives created to support jobs, business growth and opportunities. I saw the entire community tackling criminality from its root causes to the rehabilitation of offenders. I saw fundamental changes in communities Over-the-Hill.”
The Problem with Preschool in The Bahamas
For years, The Bahamas only provided public education for children aged 5-18. In the last ten years, however, the government began to create more and more public preschools. In 2014, it commissioned the Preschools and Daycare Centres Council to preside over these institutions.
There’s likely another reason Dr. Minnis hopes to attract young leaners to public preschools: enrollment currently sits as low as 50% for eligible students. As of this August, only 550 students were registered.
In response, Education Minister Jeff Lloyd announced a review of pre-K-12 public curriculum. He additionally announced another online learning project: the Profoturo’s Digital Mobile Classroom Project.
“It is expected that in addition to the development of digital resources to support the curriculum, teachers’ knowledge and skills will be enhanced through effective integration of ITC,” Lloyd said, according to Tribune242.
“Let me reiterate that this government is committed to doing what we can to equip you and your schools to be able to draw out the best results from your teachers and students, relative to their own ability – but without undue stress in the process. We must do what we can to raise the aspirations of all students – this is the objective of the government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.”