Former Education Minister, Dr Tim Gopeesingh is today refuting the claims of a Newsday columnist, following statements made in the May 31st 2021 article titled “Constitutional rights of black children.”
In it, columnist Theodore Lewis wrote: “When Samsung offered the People’s Partnership the opportunity to convert two secondary schools into model technology-driven schools, then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar chose Lakshmi Hindu high school, and Iere Presbyterian, her alma mater, as the models. No government schools. Just UNC-affiliated schools.”
However, Gopeeingh said the report is patently false and misleading.
He said “By singling out these two top performing, denominational schools, he (Theodore Lewis), has recklessly and dangerously attacked, undermined and maligned the independence and integrity of their affiliate Maha Sabha and Presbyterian Boards, and their tremendous historical contributions to our country’s education sector. For this he must be roundly condemned!”
Gopeesingh further stated that “Lewis is referring to global technological giant, Samsung Electronics’ highly acclaimed “Smart School Project”, which developed an integrated interactive learning platform for teachers and their students. It was launched in 2013 in 383 schools and more than 212,000 students in 72 countries, including Trinidad and Tobago. As then Minister of Education under the People’s Partnership Government (2010-2015), it fell under my purview, and also included the Non-Profit Organization Glasswing International.”
He added “Under this T&T Smart School Project, Samsung, at no cost, equipped 20 local schools (10 secondary and 10 primary) with digital classrooms, inclusive of installation and maintenance, the latest electronic devices, teacher training, performance monitoring, and the use of reading comprehension software Progrentis. These and many more factual details of this programme are widely publicized in numerous media reports and various public archives, including the Parliament’s Hansard Record of my contribution to the Budget debate on September 15, 2014, where I noted:
“We are one of the few countries in the world that has 21st Century smart classrooms. Twenty of our schools—10 primary and 10 secondary—do now have 21st Century smart classrooms. There are only 600 schools throughout the world that we are aware of, because Samsung is the pioneer in it and Samsung has indicated that we are pioneers in this education process .That is where we have reached in ICT in education in our country. We have over 150 technicians servicing these schools, primary and secondary schools, and we have close to 300 ICT teachers in our schools and we are going to employ another 94 based on an assessment that we did.”
According to Gopeesingh, “Theodore Lewis’ questionable peddling of outright falsehoods in this matter is therefore nothing short of devious. He has seriously compromised his integrity and lost every shred of credibility. He must immediately withdraw these false, dangerous allegations and apologize to all concerned parties, including the Presbyterian and Maha Sabha Boards.”
“I stand very proud on the People’s Partnership Government’s indisputable, impressive, unparalleled groundbreaking record of progressive, egalitarian, humane and holistic development of the T&T education sector, under the tremendous, sterling, enlightened, humanitarian and inspiring leadership of then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Under her devoted guidance, our trailblazing, innovative and highly effective policies and achievements ensured that no child in T&T would have ever been left behind in the digital age, and in general,” Gopeesingh added.
He said “This was particularly achieved under her brainchild, internationally acclaimed and regionally copied “E-Connect and Learn” programme, where every Form One child received a free laptop. We were also one of the first countries in the world to have achieved the UN’s 2015 Millennium Developmental Goal of Universal Early Childhood Education, and hailed as revolutionary by top global leaders such as Hillary Clinton and former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.”
In contrast, Gopeesingh said, “under the current PNM Government, which vindictively stopped the laptop programme upon entering office in 2015, the education sector has been deliberately destabilized to the point of near collapse. Now, 15 months into the deadly Coronavirus pandemic, an estimated 42,000 students from deprived households throughout T&T remain without ICT devices/connectivity, alarmingly cast out of the education system for nearly two years!”
He said “Outside of UNC politicians, who is advocating on behalf of these lost, desperate children? Who is castigating the Government, and calling for the Rowley regime to stop vindictively denying the nation’s underprivileged children their Constitutional rights to an equitable, just education, and a future free from crime and poverty? Certainly not the hypocritical, shameless Theodore Lewis, a self-appointed, unapologetic PNM propagandist whose only purpose is to promote misinformation to suit his divisive, dangerous and malicious political agenda, to the general detriment of our society and its most prized and cherished citizens, our beautiful children.”