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Internet, tablet woes cripple learning at Manchester school – teacher

Published:Saturday | September 19, 2020 | 12:13 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:

A rural schoolteacher in Manchester fears that many students will be left behind because the Government has not adequately provided administrators with sufficient resources for online learning.

Internet-based teaching has increasingly become the standard modality for classes after the Jamaican Government ordered schools closed days after the first case of COVID-19 was recorded here.

The teacher said that the Knockpatrick school, which has approximately 60 students, has been hamstrung because electronic devices and Internet access have been either too costly or unavailable.

The teacher, who requested anonymity out of fear of being reprimanded, told The Gleaner that beneficiaries of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, a welfare option, and other needy students should have received tablets from the Ministry of Education but have yet to acquire the devices.

While several schools across the island began online classes two weeks ago, others are planning to implement a mixed approach of remote and in-person lessons on October 5.

“… The minister of education says school begins officially in October, but we have not received any tablets, and we don’t have any Wi-Fi at the school. We have to use cell phones to access the Internet there, and I don’t see how online learning will work for all students,” the teacher said.

Fewer than 50 per cent of the student population was able to access school material and class sessions via WhatsApp messenger during the initial period of compulsory online learning. This, the educator said, is a worrying trend that is likely to continue.

“After a while, we had to start dropping off printed material. Online learning was difficult for the parents to maintain and teachers had to be buying credit for parents so they could activate the data … ,” the teacher said.

“Some parents really cannot afford it because they are farmers, some do domestic work, others are not employed.”

Efforts to reach a representative from the Ministry of Education’s Region Five proved futile.