Sun | Jan 24, 2021

Press on with school year – youth leaders

Published:Friday | January 15, 2021 | 12:08 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


Two youth leaders have pushed back at suggestions for the current school year to be cancelled due to myriad challenges affecting online classes and concerns over learning loss as many students have been unable to access lessons frequently – if at all – since physical classes were suspended last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marleen Campbell, vice-president of the Northern Caribbean University’s Students’ Union, and Ashleigh Onfroy, public relations officer of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Guild External Affairs Committee, voiced their disagreement with the idea, especially for tertiary students, during a Gleaner Youth Editors’ Forum yesterday.

According to Campbell, the pandemic is providing students with a chance to learn how to overcome difficulties, a skill that will be necessary once they enter the working world.

“In this pandemic, it is most definitely not reasonable to cancel the school year because these are times in which the adversities will teach us to manoeuvre problems or challenges that we will go out there and face in the workforce. We will definitely need to be more innovative and to be able to come up with measures on how we can navigate a difficult situation,” Campbell told the forum.

“COVID-19 has definitely brought a lot of challenges that students are now facing, and it has definitely pushed students to find means and ways to be innovative and to manoeuvre these situations and navigate through them. Though the situation poses disadvantages, there are advantages that it comes with,” added Campbell.

Meanwhile, Onfroy suggested that cancelling the school year could result in students developing a gradual disinterest in continuing their studies. This is what she and her UWI peers witnessed at the beginning of the pandemic last March.

“We experienced a hiatus from school when the pandemic just began, and I can tell you that for several university students, it is as if we have lost the very little that we began to learn. There was an increase in learning apathy, and I believe that if we postpone the school year, the same thing will repeat itself,” said Onfroy.

“I think we will have a very unproductive workforce leaving the university space if we postpone this school year or if we do not find ways and means to have a more integrated modality in delivering courses,” Onfroy warned.

Last November, a UNICEF report revealed that some 97 per cent of students in the Caribbean and Latin American region have missed out on an average of 174 school days since the onset of the pandemic.