Daily Observer (Jamaica)

LEARNING PAIN!

...as new school year begins to­day with on­line un­cer­tainty

- BY KIM­BER­LEY HIB­BERT Senior staff reporter hi­b­bertk@ja­maicaob­server.com Society · Education · Parenting · Family · Jamaica · Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology · Ministry of Human Resource Development · Google · Hanover Parish · Whatsapp · Hanover · Green Acres, WA · Haddington

THOU­SANDS of stu­dents will head back to school vir­tu­ally to­day but for some groups there is still much un­cer­tainty re­gard­ing their ac­cess to on­line classes, which will be the new norm un­til stake­hold­ers can guar­an­tee the re­duced risk of ex­po­sure in schools.

These groups, which com­prise stu­dents from ba­sic to high school, are deal­ing with the in­abil­ity to ac­cess and/ or af­ford In­ter­net as well as gad­gets such as tablets, smart­phones and lap­tops for stu­dents to ob­tain teach­ing ma­te­rial and in­struc­tion.

Added to that, house­holds with more than one child face the sit­u­a­tion of re­source con­straint in try­ing to fig­ure out how one de­vice will be split be­tween two or three chil­dren at dif­fer­ent lev­els within the education sys­tem.

Rev­erend Valin Smith, one of the stake­hold­ers of Green Acres Early Child­hood In­sti­tu­tion in St Cather­ine, told the Ja­maica Ob­server that for many of the par­ents ac­cess to the In­ter­net is to­tally out of the pic­ture as the af­ford­abil­ity is just too high and par­ents are not able to find the fund­ing to main­tain the com­mod­ity.

Sub­se­quently, the in­sti­tu­tion has had to em­ploy an al­ter­na­tive ap­proach which is to pre­pare the work, copy it and have the par­ents col­lect it, ad­min­is­ter it to their child and re­turn to the school in a two-day cy­cle.

In ad­di­tion, Rev Smith said the school has also faced chal­lenges with pay­ing teach­ers as they do not re­ceive a sub­sidy from the Gov­ern­ment. He said there is also the chal­lenge of some par­ents de­cid­ing not to en­gage the school, and the en­gag­ing of ba­sic school-aged chil­dren.

“There was some prom­ise made, based on what my prin­ci­pal was say­ing to me, by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Min­istry of Education that schools will be get­ting money, but no one in our clus­ter has re­ceived any­thing as yet. That’s a set­back be­cause now we have to go and find the money from else­where and that has to be re­paid. Some par­ents have de­cided not to send out their chil­dren un­til Jan­uary [while] oth­ers say they are go­ing to send them out, so that’s the chal­lenge we are fac­ing. We are think­ing of cre­ative ways to get some fund­ing to off­set the teach­ers’ salaries and so on,” Rev Smith said. “We had 74 chil­dren on roll be­fore COVID, now, the prin­ci­pal has been call­ing around to find out who will be com­ing to school. The tech­nol­ogy is also a big thing. Even if we were to have it [tablets] I don’t know how we would be able to mon­i­tor the younger chil­dren to teach them over Google; this is mainly be­cause of the at­ten­tion span. They are the ones that need faceto-face in­ter­ac­tion.”

Like Rev Smith, Monique Jack­son, prin­ci­pal of Hadding­ton Ba­sic School in Hanover, is wrestling with how to get across to young chil­dren in a vir­tual space.

“For the three-year-olds it is go­ing to pose a prob­lem as they will not sit in front of a tablet or phone for [an] ex­tended pe­riod un­less they are watch­ing car­toons or play­ing a game. For the fours and the fives, I think they will man­age, some­what,” Jack­son told the Ob­server.

Fur­ther, she said In­ter­net ac­cess and af­ford­abil­ity re­main ma­jor chal­lenges as many can­not af­ford to pay the monthly costs associated with In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity.

“Some per­sons are not hooked up [on­line and] some are not work­ing, so they can’t af­ford to sign up for it. We will have to mostly do print­out — print the work and give it to par­ents. This Mon­day we will have a meet­ing with par­ents to teach them some of the stuff so they will be able to teach their chil­dren. I am go­ing to be at school as I don’t have In­ter­net at home, so par­ents can reach me there,” Jack­son said.

De­spite avail­ing her­self in this way, Jack­son said there are still some par­ents who are just not both­ered and it wor­ries her to the point of headaches.

“Some par­ents say ‘Teacha, a likkle pickni dem [so] dem no affi come pon no on­line class. When dem reach di age we will send dem.’ But they don’t un­der­stand that these are the foun­da­tion years, so we are hav­ing a chal­lenge as it re­lates to that too. I am wor­ried about some stu­dents. We did the What­sapp thing from March; I per­son­ally went and col­lected some of the books from some of the par­ents and gave them back work so they could go back and give to their chil­dren. When it was test time I had to go around and give those chil­dren their test. Even up un­til now some chil­dren didn’t par­tic­i­pate in it. Now, they are mov­ing to new classes and I am won­der­ing how am I go­ing to get through to some of them. I was plan­ning to take some of them to my home and teach them there but min­istry says that’s a no-no, as their par­ents go dif­fer­ent places so I would be putting my­self at risk. This Mon­day we will walk them through the steps as to how to do it but it may come down to some be­ing on­line, some via What­sapp, and some get­ting print­outs,” Jack­son said.

Tra­cie Camp­bell, prin­ci­pal of Fer­ris Pri­mary School in West­more­land, said they’re still at the prepa­ra­tion stage.

“On Thurs­day we did a Pow­er­point pre­sen­ta­tion to help par­ents un­der­stand how to log in as the tablets were com­ing on Fri­day. I sched­uled it for Thurs­day and Fri­day be­cause I was told the tablets were com­ing Fri­day. A lot of par­ents don’t have it so they rely on the ones com­ing from the min­istry. In the ini­tial sta[g]e I was told to pre­pare two lists – a PATH [Pro­gramme of Ad­vance­ment Through Health and Education] list and a needy list, so I sub­mit­ted those. When we had [the] meet­ing with the min­istry we were told only grades four, five and six will be get­ting now...un­for­tu­nately I didn’t get the tablets on Fri­day, so par­ents will have to use the Pow­er­point and maybe ask a neigh­bour or high school stu­dent to show them how to log in. Once the tablets come I will avail my­self for pickup as I know par­ents and stu­dents are de­pend­ing on them,” Camp­bell said.

She added: “The need is there. I’ve been get­ting the calls to say ‘Mrs Camp­bell, I hope my child is on it,’ but I have to say I can­not guar­an­tee that more than one child in a house­hold will get so they may have to do some shar­ing, which may be chal­leng­ing. One par­ent saw me and said, ‘Miss, mi a ask you to se­cure one,’ but we have to go by the list. The need is real, some par­ents... not even the cell­phone they have. The printed work will be a chal­lenge as that will have to be dis­trib­uted, es­pe­cially in the deep ru­ral part of the com­mu­nity. It will be a chal­lenge.”

Paula Cham­bers Mor­ris, prin­ci­pal of Mount Ward Pri­mary School in Hanover, said they have been mak­ing the prepa­ra­tions and they are about 75 per cent ready for open­ing on the vir­tual plat­form.

“I had taken the ini­tia­tive to give the par­ents the book list and also put a tablet on it. Some of our par­ents started the prepa­ra­tion for that [so] I don’t think they were caught off guard. What we have de­cided as an in­sti­tu­tion is that par­ents will log in or come on­line, so to speak, by at least 8:30 am to get their in­struc­tional in­for­ma­tion — as by 8:30 am most peo­ple would be ready and off to work.

“Not ev­ery­body has a tablet but most of the par­ents have a smart­phone. The back-up plan for the group of stu­dents who re­ally might not un­der­stand, we are hop­ing with in­struc­tions from the education of­fi­cer we can in­vite them in and within two hours we have some in­struc­tion or guided way to help them or par­ents to un­der­stand the in­for­ma­tion and work in­de­pen­dently,” Cham­bers Mor­ris said.

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 ??  ?? Fer­ris Pri­mary School
Tra­cie Camp­bell, prin­ci­pal of Fer­ris Pri­mary in West­more­land, says the in­sti­tu­tion is still prepar­ing but not at level zero for the vir­tual re­open­ing of school.
Rev­erend Valin Smith, stake­holder of Green Acres Early Child­hood In­sti­tu­tion in St Cather­ine, says par­ents have a chal­lenge with ac­cess to and af­ford­abil­ity of In­ter­net.
Mount Ward Pri­mary School is 75 per cent ready for the vir­tual re­open­ing of school.
Fer­ris Pri­mary School Tra­cie Camp­bell, prin­ci­pal of Fer­ris Pri­mary in West­more­land, says the in­sti­tu­tion is still prepar­ing but not at level zero for the vir­tual re­open­ing of school. Rev­erend Valin Smith, stake­holder of Green Acres Early Child­hood In­sti­tu­tion in St Cather­ine, says par­ents have a chal­lenge with ac­cess to and af­ford­abil­ity of In­ter­net. Mount Ward Pri­mary School is 75 per cent ready for the vir­tual re­open­ing of school.

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