SAGE Newsletter

Main Content

July 2020 - September 2020

1. Greetings from our Senior Technical Advisor

Hello from Alberta... en route to St. Lucia soon!

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

COVID-19 is still upon us and creating new issues, challenges and opportunities for all of us. My heart goes out to anyone who has been dealing with health and family issues related to the pandemic.

Our SAGE teams across Canada and the Caribbean have been very busy developing curriculum, organizing committees for programs and connecting with partnerships to address program design and deliverables.  We are most appreciative of the dedication and support both the Canadian and Caribbean partners are providing.

We are excited that some programs are getting ready to launch virtually this fall and we look forward to participating and sharing the enthusiasm and passion that our partners have for SAGE. A special thank you to all our partners who have responded to our emails and requests as I know everyone has been very busy.

We have said goodbye to Martin who was our Program Officer and communications person for SAGE.  Martin has moved to a new position within CICan and we are most thankful for his support of our program, and we should shortly have someone new in the Program Officer position.

During this time, I have become involved in committee work to address issues and challenges of racism in our community. It is no longer acceptable to just listen – it is important to speak out and to work together so our communities are welcoming and inclusive. I am sharing this as I do believe we all need to be kind, to be inclusive and to stand up and speak out against racism. I am sharing a link that tells a little more about our story here in central Alberta.

By the next newsletter I should be back in St. Lucia!

Stay safe and warmest regards,


2. News, Events, and Partnership Updates

SAGE 06 St. Lucia Virtual Launch: September 30, 2020

Education leaders, faculty, staff and government officials from Canada and St. Lucia along with SAGE partners from across the Caribbean came together on September 30, 2020 to celebrate the virtual launch of SAGE 06 – Climate Smart Agriculture in St. Lucia. Dalhousie University President, Dr. Deep Saini, was joined by leaders from Algonquin College and local partners including St. Lucia Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and National Skills Development Centre, as well as program funders and national stakeholders, who shared remarks and congratulations to SAGE 06 partners. 66 people joined the launch on Zoom and many more followed the live stream on Facebook.

In his remarks, Mr. Benoit-Pierre Laramée, Senior Director, Caribbean Regional Development Programme, High Commission of Canada to Barbados, congratulated the partners on the launch of the project in St. Lucia under the SAGE program. Mr. Laramée noted that the adaptation of climate resilient crop production systems will help to mitigate the future challenges in the agricultural system in the face of greater climatic variability. It will also work to ensure potential food insecurity issues, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAGE 06 was the first of the SAGE programs to launch their program virtually, in a very successful way!

SAGE06 Virtual Launch

Canadian Consultancies

SAGE would like to thank all the colleges that participated in the Call for Proposals for the Marketing to Vulnerable Learners and Integrating Persons with Disabilities Consultancies. Interviews were recently held and SAGE would like to congratulate Nova Scotia Community College who will lead the Marketing to Vulnerable Learners Consultancy and College of the North Atlantic and Norquest College who will lead the Integrating Persons with Disabilities consultancy.

Belize (SAGE-01)

The SAGE-01 team conducted interviews with civil society organizations to gather information on the impacts of COVID-19. In addition, information on country policies related to students with disabilities was gathered and an employer apprenticeship survey was conducted. Information on Gender Based Analysis+ was also gathered and shared with the Canadian partner institutions.

The spread of COVID-19 has steadily risen from July to September with over 1,500 reported cases and 19 deaths. Surveillance and testing measures continue across the country.

The Government of Belize has allocated $12 million to retrofit clinics to prepare for COVID-19 patients, procure PPEs and ventilators, and testing. Measures put in place during the pandemic have produced an increase in unemployment and reduction in wages. The Government of Belize launched a COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Program in March 2020 with an aim to provide support to unemployed, self-employed and newly unemployed citizens in addition to the food pantry and other social assistance programs already in place.

Schools (primary, secondary and tertiary level) reopened as of September 7, 2020, after the passage of Hurricane Nana. Schools have been conducting distance learning which has been facilitated by printed materials distributed through primary schools to parents.

Dominica (SAGE-02)

SAGE-02 has recently set up its Program Advisory Committee.

There has been a slow increase in COVID-19 transmission with a total of 25 cases, seven of which are active, and no reported deaths thus far. Dominica’s borders are open to international travelers and nationals of Dominica with negative PCR tests. There are protocols that must be adhered to for travelers and tourists visiting the island.

Schools officially opened on September 7, 2020, utilizing shift system and blended learning, which minimizes the number of students in the face-to-face learning environment. The Dominica State College Orientation began on September 14, 2020 and ended on September 18, 2020 for its fall intake. Courses will be delivered through a blended learning approach using Zoom for live lesson delivery and Orbund platform for registration and communication between students and lecturers. Classes officially commenced on September 28, 2020.

Grenada (SAGE-03)

The SAGE-03 project team recently completed an employers’ apprenticeship survey. The participation of employers was lower than desired due to challenges faced because of the pandemic. This exposed an opportunity for developing a stronger relationship between the institutions and employers to foster mutual trust and create awareness of TVET and in particular apprenticeship/on-the-job training.

Schools in Grenada reopened on September 7, 2020 utilizing a shift system which will only see a small number of students in the classroom on any single day. Instruction is being delivered using a blended approach that incorporates e-learning and in-classroom instruction. T.A. Marryshow Community College reopened on September 15 for second year students only. An increase of SAGE activities is expected and the focus during this period will be stakeholder consultations.

Guyana (SAGE-04)

SAGE-04 partners met regularly online to plan and discuss elements of the program. The Canadian College partners are working on finalizing a tool that will be used to assess institute capacity. The data from this tool will feed into the tailored program to build capacity at both institutes.

Over the last few weeks, testing for COVID-19 has significantly increased, along with the number of positive cases. To date, Guyana has tested approximately 11,000 persons and has recorded almost 2000 positive cases with 58 deaths.

Schools are virtually open and are providing instructions using a blended approach. The Ministry of Education is providing instruction for learners via radio, television and the internet. All lecturers attached to TVET institutions are currently engaged in a one-month online training session to further equip them to deliver using virtual modalities.  Classes at New Amsterdam Technical Institute have commenced and are being delivered using various online platforms. Teachers at Bina Hill Youth Learning Centre are currently preparing distance education packages for students, which will be delivered soon.

Jamaica (SAGE-05)

SAGE-05 continues to work on the project deliverables. During this period the team has conducted several meetings via Zoom. A Change Management series was conducted in July for local partners. The series received a positive review.

Jamaica continues to struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, there have been over 6000 confirmed cases and over 100 deaths. The government has declared that the country is now facing community spread.  The Ministry of Health continues to increase its testing across the nation. With funding from USAID, the first field hospital is currently being constructed to help with the overflow of COVID positive patients from the public hospitals.

Schools will officially open on October 5, 2020, using three modalities: online learning with zero rated websites, television and radio programs, and delivery of learning materials for persons in remote areas.

St. Lucia (SAGE-06)

During the last three months, virtual meetings and instructional webinars for topics including gender and M& E took center stage. Information and data gathering activities also took place for green skills, institutional marketing, and readiness for accommodation of persons with disabilities at local partner institutions. An employer apprenticeship survey was also conducted with the aim of gathering information for the development of an apprenticeship model for the Caribbean.

St. Lucia currently reports the lowest COVID-19 figures across the Caribbean region. As of September 11, 2020, St. Lucia had recorded a total of 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with zero deaths and 26 of the cases fully recovered.

All schools reopened on September 7, 2020 with two options for instructional engagements. SALCC has developed a COVID Response Policy for its reopening that is in keeping with the guidelines set out by the Ministries of Health and Education.  A key element of this new policy is the pivot to Online Learning or Digital Education as the primary mode of instruction for all programs except for Labs, Clinicals, Fieldwork and Practicals. Students will be experiencing training in Online Learning and study modalities to ensure an enriching experience. Online classes are to begin on September 21, 2020.

3. Focus on Apprenticeship

Gender Equality in Apprenticeship/Trades

To ensure gender equality within the proposed apprenticeship model for SAGE, the issue of Women in Apprenticeship/Trades was carefully examined. Within the six SAGE participating countries, a slow but consistent growth in women accessing employment due to their higher educational levels has been observed. However, growth of employment occurs within the services industry, notably the wholesale and retail sector, which is predominated by women. The non-traditional industrial sectors are still dominated by males due to a small take-up of women in the field.

Common challenges among the six countries included sexism and sexual harassment, structural biases (equal pay, opportunity, education, and training), employment discrimination and finding a work-life balance.

To achieve gender equity and acceptance of women in non-traditional trades, a cultural and structural change is necessary to break the stigma of women in male-dominated workplaces.

4. Spotlight on Gender and Climate Change

Responses to a recent survey by 59 civil society organizations in the six Caribbean countries implementing the SAGE program show severe impacts of COVID-19 on operations and increasing vulnerabilities among women, men, children and youth.

The survey, conducted between June 12 and July 15, 2020, sought to ascertain COVID-19 impacts on operations (and by extension services to vulnerable groups), on women, men, children and youth, and on the overall context for implementing education and training programs.

The findings, though not conclusive, are an important indication of the social context of the countries and of some of the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted the groups to be targeted by the SAGE program.

Key findings:

  • High numbers of women are employed in the service industry, particularly tourism, which has been severely impact by COVID-19, leaving many unemployed.
  • Increased stresses of managing a household are being noted, due to lockdown and limited access to healthcare, food  and childcare, along with increased responsibilities for supervising children’s on-line learning, and increasing elder care and spouse care.
  • Single mothers and pregnant women are likely to be especially challenged.
  • Increased challenges for women as care givers are evident.
  • Many frontline workers are women who also shoulder most of the additional household responsibilities and face the stress of having no childcare services in operation.
  • With all the added responsibilities and stresses, women are still expected to maintain sexual relations with partners or potentially face abuse.
  • Many women were not able to access feminine products and contraceptives.
  • Many women and girls who are being abused were/are in lockdown with their abusers.
  • Educational disruption and loss of social/recreational opportunities are the most frequently cited impacts on children and youth.

5. Working from home during COVID-19

Miguel Usher staying productive in his home office

6. SAGE Team Members in Focus

Dawn Francis, Country Support Coordinator - Dominica

Dawn Francis

Dawn is a graduate of the Clifton Community College (SIFOCOL) in Dominica and alumni of The University of the West Indies Open Campus – Dominica in the areas of procurement and sustainable agriculture. She is a proud holder of a diploma in Family Farming from the University of Puebla, Mexico. Dawn joined the SAGE team in February of 2020 as a Country Support Coordinator.

In 2016, she assumed the role of project coordinator for the CEFE project in Dominica with the Dominica State College, CICan and College of the Rockies. This gave her an insight to the importance of TVET in Dominica.

As a consultant offering services in project grant proposal writing, project implementation and project monitoring and evaluation to grassroots organizations, she has been privileged to work with a few CSO’s and NGO’s on island inclusive of youth with challenges.

She is passionate about sustainable agriculture and is a member of the Central Universal Farmers Group as well as the President of the Sustainable Living Initiative Centre. She grows quite a bit of her own food and engages in small scale animal husbandry.

Miguel Usher, Country Support Coordinator - Belize

Miguel Usher

Miguel Usher joined the SAGE team in February 2020, as a Country Support Coordinator. He is a development consultant and project manager with extensive project management experience, from both the donor and grantee perspectives. He holds an MBA with a concentration in Sustainable Development from Galen University.

His interests are in community development and socioeconomic strategy and planning. He truly believes that change is driven by joint efforts focused on shared goals.

Privately, Miguel is an adventure seeker and entrepreneur. As a motorcyclist, he has seen the beauty of Belize and Central America. Through his new endeavor, he was able to combine his adventure and entrepreneurial spirits by channeling his energy into farming. As a newly registered farmer, Miguel has been dedicating his weekends with other small farmers in a farming syndicate, working on each other’s land in a rotational basis. As he is mindful of the importance of family, and his wife and kids are active participants in his undertakings.