A little St Mary district logs on to misery
A week after the official start of school in the COVID-19 era, parents and students in Epsom, St Mary, reported highs and lows of the new normal.
Poor Internet connectivity was a common thread in the conversations a Gleaner news team had with residents last Friday.
Alicia Morand, a shopkeeper, has one child attending primary school.
The mother bemoaned the below-par telecoms service in the community and illustrated the same by showing the slow pace at which an educational website was loading on her smartphone.
“I plan to put on the one-month plan on his phone. Right here so we a go deh inna di shop. Di shop a go turn school, too, ‘cause me usually supervise him in here after school with homework,” said Morand.
Another resident, Raymond Bartley, shared that he does not have school-age children but can relate to the troubles of parents and students.
“Bwoy, it slow. Likkle bit or none at all. More time, me haffi ride guh out a road guh look Internet. Sometimes it work better late in the night,” he said.
Meanwhile, a parent of three who asked that her name be withheld disclosed that virtual schooling has been a task. Though week one has ended, she does not think she will fare better in the coming days.
“Me nuh know nutten ‘bout schoolwork. Mi stop guh a school long time. The 16-year-old is the biggest one, but she cyah help dem ‘cause she have fi har work fi do because she’s in grade 11,” she said, adding that her daughter is preparing for external examinations.
Principal of Epsom Primary School, Shernett Barker, told The Gleaner that connectivity woes are a constant challenge in the community. As a result, all three learning approaches – including TV-based lessons and the distribution of printed material – outlined by the education ministry will be utilised.
“We also make telephone calls to our parents and students who we are unable to reach. We even do home visits, even in the time of COVID, because there were two students who I could not reach from Monday, and I visited their homes today,” the principal said.
Of the 39 students at the multi-grade school, 26 were engaged on Google Suite for orientation sessions. Barker said that parents are making the effort to purchase data plans.
Carleta Thomas-Douglas is the acting principal of Epsom Basic School, which has a population of 22 students.
Only two students registered for the Christmas term as parents were uncertain about what the new school year would be like.
“We are going fine so far. We do work via WhatsApp, and we also do pick-ups and drop-offs,” she said.
Additionally, activity kits were prepared and distributed to parents in week one as the school aims to limit the screen time of its early-childhood students.
“We send the activities via WhatsApp, and I send voice notes explaining the activities,” the acting principal noted.
Thomas-Douglas said the lesson plan is also shared with parents to inform them about the objectives, how a lesson will be taught, and how learning will be assessed.
“I have some parents who work in the day, but the students have bigger brothers or sisters who assist them, while some of them assist their children with the work when they get home,” Thomas-Douglas said.