Hanover students yearn for return to classroom
Three weeks ago when the first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Jamaica, 11-year-old Coniesea McFarlane was excited.
Having wrapped up her primary school journey, she was anxious to get inoculated against the coronavirus, hoping that she could begin her secondary education studies at Anchovy High School in St James with face-to-face classes.
However, news that the vaccine would only be available to children 15 years and older, with allowance for 12- to 14-year-olds with certain medical conditions, left her heartbroken.
“They say those from 12 to 18 can take the Pfizer vaccine, so I can’t take it,” the Bessie Baker district, Hanover resident told The Gleaner, pointing out that her 12th birthday would be in March 2022.
“Online class is very difficult because in here (community), the Internet service is very poor, so I am having a difficult time connecting,” she continued. “There is no free Wi-Fi, so we have to buy [mobile] data [plans]. Sometimes, we even can’t afford it, so we have to just do something different that can get our mind off this stress and frustration we are going through.”
That “something different”, she explained, included taking on the role of teacher as she and her friends played school. Between lessons, the children would all take turns riding her bicycle on a nearby field.
“I read lots of books. I love reading books, and I just play sometimes, and sometimes I just sleep or just do some home chores that need to be done,” she said further.
Some metres away from Coniesea’s house, The Gleaner saw a group of youngsters sitting under a tree with smartphones in hand as they engaged in virtual lessons.
Fifteen-year-old Orain Parkin, who was the most willing to and the only one who had already taken his first jab, was also longing for a return to the physical classroom.
“I took my first shot already because I want to go back to school ... ,” the Knockalva Technical High School student said.
The Government has said that schools won’t be allowed to conduct face-to-face lessons until at least 65 per cent of students have been vaccinated.
Orain disclosed that he took his first shot at the Ramble Health Centre, which was the closest vaccination site to his home.
“I don’t feel any reaction from it,” he said of the jab.
Like McFarlane, he expressed concern about the absence of a free Wi-Fi hotspot in his community to allow students to access classes more easily.
“We don’t have Wi-Fi, and we have to put service on our phones, and it is very costly. The plan is $850 every week. Sometimes it chips out and we can’t join back. Having Wi-Fi would help us very well in the community,” Orain said.