Fri | Mar 5, 2021

Epsom sees no reason for not returning to classroom

Published:Tuesday | January 26, 2021 | 12:14 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Nine-year-old Ricardo Grant (left) is assisted by his mother, Lashanna Junior, with schoolwork in Epsom, St Mary. In the background are Ricardo’s siblings, Malaika and Orville, who also attend the Epsom Primary School. Residents of the area complain abou
Nine-year-old Ricardo Grant (left) is assisted by his mother, Lashanna Junior, with schoolwork in Epsom, St Mary. In the background are Ricardo’s siblings, Malaika and Orville, who also attend the Epsom Primary School. Residents of the area complain about the lack of reliable and affordable Internet service is affecting their children’s online schooling.

With not much improvement since the new academic year began last October, residents of Epsom in St Mary are still calling for the two schools in the rural district to be reopened for face-to-face classes.

Epsom Primary School is a multi-grade institution with 39 students, while Epsom Basic School has a population of about 22 pupils.

Lashanna Junior has three children who attend the primary school in grades three, five and six.

For the two older children, classes have been held strictly online.

She explained that a face-to-face pilot was conducted with lower-school students for three days last week, but no decision has been taken about its continuity.

Junior told The Gleaner that it has been tedious supervising the children, especially while balancing home duties and errands.

“Some of the schoolwork, I don’t even know them. Without the supervision, I’m not sure they would be managing at all,” Junior shared.

“It’s worse now and I’m concerned,” bemoaned Vicky Bowen, a mother of two children, ages seven and 11.

“It nah work at all because I don’t have Internet at home, and some a di time, mi cyah afford the credit,” the mother said of an issue that has been plaguing thousands of households across the island, arguing that reopening would be the best option for students.

Bowen found support in two other parents who believe that heading back to the classroom would be a step in the right direction.

SLOW LEARNER

Taneisha Malcolm has three children and said that only the eldest child has been progressing steadily as she prepares to sit external examinations later this year.

Her son, a grade nine student, is a slow learner and she pointed out that he has been grasping little to nothing from online school.

“Last year, they had a teacher coming into the district to drop off the lessons and carry it back, but from January, we haven’t seen her,” she said sadly.

Malcolm reasoned that there is also a lack of supervision of children in the community as most parents leave home for work on school days.

Pointing to the children playing outside before noon last Friday, she said that if the current system was working, they would not be seen on the road before 3 p.m.

“The Epsom Primary School can open because all the children who attend the school are from the little community right here. All a dem mix up together, day and night,” said Malcolm.

Another parent who declined to be named added that the school is equipped with an isolation room to care for students and staff suspected of being infected with COVID-19.

“Grade six has five students and grade five has three students. Tell me why it can’t open,” the parent pressed, adding that there was more than sufficient room for social distancing.

When The Gleaner visited the community last October, the resident bemoaned the challenge of poor phone signal and limited Internet connectivity.

“Two Internet persons are here now. One is $25,000 for installation and then $5,000 per month and the other is $7,500 and then you pay $3,000 per month,” one woman revealed, noting that at those rates, many were priced out as the majority of parents are employed in low-income jobs.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com