Hanover stake­hold­ers wor­ried about on­line school­ing

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - Bryan Miller/Gleaner Writer

WITH SOME re­ports sug­gest­ing that as many as 50 per cent of the stu­dents in Hanover have not been ben­e­fit­ing from the teach­ing-learn­ing process since the start of the new school year, sev­eral prom­i­nent stake­hold­ers in the parish, in­clud­ing Cus­tos Dr David Stair, are wor­ried about the sit­u­a­tion.

“In my opin­ion, I think we (in Hanover) are in se­ri­ous trou­ble. As you should know, the ma­jor­ity of Hanover is ru­ral, and low­in­come fam­i­lies live i n these places,” Stair said in an interview with The Gleaner, not­ing that the lack of fi­nan­cial re­sources, the lack of con­nec­tiv­ity, and a poor telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion in­fra­struc­ture were prov­ing to be a ma­jor set­back to ed­u­ca­tion in the parish.

“Recog­nis­ing all of these fac­tors, I am sure the au­thor­i­ties must be aware that we should have taken the rest of 2020 to put all the in­fra­struc­ture in place, de­velop all the teach­ing pro­grammes, teach the teach­ers how to em­brace the new tech­nol­ogy, and de­velop plans that can reach ev­ery­one and are also able to make sure that the chil­dren are equipped to re­ceive the i nfor­ma­tion be­cause without ad­e­quate de­vices, ad­e­quate con­nec­tiv­ity, the re­sources to ac­cess the in­for­ma­tion, we are go­ing to be in trou­ble,” added Stair.


In de­scrib­ing t he cur­rent sit­u­a­tion as dis­mal and chaotic, Stair said more plan­ning was needed to get the new school year off to a proper start.

“Plan­ners need to get out in the real world. They need to get out there on the ground and see how things ac­tu­ally op­er­ate and what are the re­al­i­ties of life in Ja­maica, es­pe­cially in the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. They need to recog­nise that city liv­ing and ru­ral liv­ing are quite dif­fer­ent,” said Stair.

Gare Whit­taker, pres­i­dent of the Hanover Cham­ber of Com­merce, said that he, too, is con­cerned about the cur­rent state of af­fairs, es­pe­cially as it re­lates to tablets and In­ter­net ser­vice.

“While we un­der­stand the rea­son to have stay-at-home learn­ing now, it is also im­por­tant to try to come up with a strat­egy in which we are go­ing to one, make sure that In­ter­net ser­vice is avail­able and two, en­sure the kids who do not have tablets, what is the plan in or­der for them to get it?”

Recog­nis­ing the chal­lenge fac­ing both the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and par­ents, Whit­taker said that plans are afoot in his or­gan­i­sa­tion to as­sist with the pro­vi­sion of tablets for some needy stu­dents.

In­ter­est­ingly, one prin­ci­pal, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, said she shares the view that fewer than 50 per cent of the stu­dents in the parish have In­ter­net ac­cess.

“A lot of the chil­dren do not have phones. It is the par­ents who have the phones, and many times, the par­ents go to work with their phones.

The oth­ers are get­ting en­gaged through a medium which is not very com­pe­tent,” the ed­u­ca­tor said. “We are go­ing to have a se­ri­ous aca­demic chal­lenge with this gen­er­a­tion. The stu­dents def­i­nitely have al­ready fallen be­hind, and they will con­tinue to fall be­hind, so many of them are not get­ting an op­por­tu­nity to talk to their teach­ers and ask them ques­tions. All of this is go­ing to cause a back­ward trend in ed­u­ca­tion in Hanover.”

The prin­ci­pal, nonethe­less, stated that with the level of the com­mu­nity spread of the coro­n­avirus across the na­tion, she would not sup­port any face-to­face classes at this time. “What I think should hap­pen is that the Govern­ment must ne­go­ti­ate with the tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies to pro­vide In­ter­net ser­vice ac­cess for the need­i­est stu­dents,” the prin­ci­pal said. “Also, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion must step up its dis­tri­bu­tion of tablets to needy stu­dents.”


Dr David Stair.

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