Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly during her interview with GML last week.

Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly says Memory Bank Computers Ltd was recommended for a $45.7 million contract to supply 20,000 laptops for students and these should be here shortly.

Confirming this in Parliament yesterday, Gadsby-Dolly said the laptops are expected to arrive in T&T by next month and will be distributed to students subsequently.

Replying to queries by United National Congress MP Anita Haynes on procurement of laptop devices for students through iGovTT, Gadsby-Dolly said the Education Ministry, in collaboration with the National Information and Communication Technology Company Limited (iGovTT), has completed the procurement evaluation exercises for the 20,000 laptops.

She said, “iGovTT has recommended the award of contract to Memory Bank Computers Limited for the amount of (TT) $45,700,000.00) VAT non-applicable. The letter of award was issued to Memory Bank Computers Limited on 2nd February 2021.

“The Procurement Unit of iGovTT has finalised the two contracts required to manage funding and the completion of the procurement of laptops, which are the parent contract with the ministry and the contract with Memory Bank Computers Limited and those will be signed shortly.”

Memory Bank Computers Limited has indicated that the laptop devices were ordered from its supplier on the date of the letter of award, with a one-to-two-month timeframe for delivery of the laptops to the ministry.

On plans or programmes to help ensure students remain in virtual school, Gadsby-Dolly said, “As for physical school, the attendance of students online is taken every day as a record of student attendance in the virtual classrooms. Where students have repeated absences, as is the procedure physically, schools would make attempts to contact parents, involving the staff of the Student Support Services Division.

“Students who are having difficulty transitioning to the virtual environment have also been able to benefit from the services of school social workers and guidance counsellors online, and face to face, under COVID-19 protocols, where necessary.”

In addition, she said the ministry continues to facilitate the donation of devices to students by corporate citizens to bring more students into the online environment, even as the delivery of 20,000 devices is expected in April.

“The ministry is also arranging the procurement of 1,300 devices from CAF/UNICEF at this time to ensure that our students have equal access to virtual home-based learning,” she said.

On another query on the filling of all teaching service vacancies, Gadsby -Dolly said,”The Teaching Service Commission is the body responsible for the filling of vacancies in the teaching service and not the Ministry of Education. In addition, the process for recruiting teachers is quite time-consuming and in the circumstances, notwithstanding the general freeze on filling of vacancies in the public sector in fiscal 2021, the commission is continuing its work so that teachers can be employed as and when funds become available, in order to ensure continuity of education to our children.”

She added that all vacancies will be filled.