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The Ministry of Education on Friday launched the Animal Friends Learning App which was developed by Ms Khaimwattie Seenarine, a teacher.
The launch which was held at the Tuschen Nursery School was a collaborative effort between the ministry’s National Literacy Department and the Nursery Department. The Animal Friends Learning app, which is available on the Google Play store has been in development over the last two years. After its initial download, the app can be used offline without any internet connectivity.
Giving an overview, Assistant Chief Education Officer (Literacy), Ms Samantha Williams stated that it is an adaptation of the Timehri Reader Series, the Animal Friends Reader and Workbooks. These resources provide a sight-word-based programme to develop children’s sight-word recognition skills and expand their vocabulary so that they can begin to achieve early reading success. The programme is interactive and provides teachers with opportunities to support self-directed learning opportunities for their children. Additionally, they are some evaluation activities to check how learners are progressing.
Ms Seenarine, the developer of the app, told the audience the idea was birthed after she utilised an electronic tablet to deliver lessons to her pupils one day. She said that the pupils were responsive to that lesson.
Delivering the feature address, Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, stated that nursery education is critical in a child’s academic development. She noted that the Ministry is assiduously working to raise the literacy levels among pupils. She highlighted that several resources have been invested in ensuring pupils are provided with the best opportunities possible.
Minister Manickchand said that in the age of technology, it is imperative to find ways to engage children meaningfully. As such, the app provides a platform for pupils to learn through play.
However, the World Bank, in its October 2022 Fact Sheet on Guyana stated that whilst Guyana continues to spend large sums of money on education it lags behind its Latin America and Caribbean counterparts.
Assistant Chief Education Officer (Nursery), Mr Devendra Persaud said the app was developed to transform the Animal Friends Reader and Workbook into a more effective and interactive approach through an e-learning platform. He noted that it was handed over in July 2022 and is currently being used in nursery classrooms in Regions One, Seven and Nine.
In addition to launching the Learning App, two Nursery Schools received tablets as part of the Ministry’s Each Learner a Tablet Initiative. These are the Noitgedacht and Clairemont Nursery Schools. Both are riverine schools.
Ms Williams noted that this initiative was birthed when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted learning for the nursery sector in 2020 and each sector was responsible for designing a Response Strategy to ensure learning continuity during an uncertain period in the World’s History.
The Government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Education, has strived to implement distance and alternative learning for children even though these learners may face issues of limited internet connectivity; limited ICT competencies of teachers; and the inability to provide learning tools/ instruments to meet the demands of all learners, especially the most disadvantaged groups.
To this end, electronic tablets were procured and preloaded. The tablets have been preloaded with over 40 programmes to support learners’ development. The distribution process has been over 130 nursery schools in Regions 1, 7, 8 and 9 and the riverine communities of Regions Two, Three and Ten.
Deputy Chief Education Officer (Amerindian and Hinterland Education Development), Mr Marti DeSouza said the app will be a great asset to teachers and parents as it will provide another outlet for pupils to be actively engaged and learn through play.