Mon | Nov 29, 2021

The ‘other students’ in the virtual classroom

Published:Friday | October 15, 2021 | 12:07 AM


As we grapple with the idea of normalcy amid the ongoing pandemic, it is evident that online school is fast becoming the default mode for teaching and learning.

I applaud our Ministry of Education, Youth & Information (MOEYI) on initiating adaptive strategies and policies geared at keeping schools operational and students equipped with the requisite tools.

The spoke in the wheel of Jamaica’s education system is not unique and, as in other jurisdictions, the responsible ministry has come under great scrutiny. Notwithstanding, I believe the MOEYI is doing a commendable job. Post pandemic, there will be on record a template that, with minimum tweaking, will be useful for future crises. I commend the administrators, facilitators and teachers for their amazing work.

I recently overheard a conversation among mothers of primary-level children, as they passionately expressed their joy at relearning by just being in the room as their children participated in online school. I agreed with them, as I, too, have become one of the ‘other students’ in the virtual classroom.

I find that relearning, in some instances, appears to be new learning, as I find myself asking if I was ever taught a particular subject. And I have been Googling a lot, to respond intelligibly to my primary-school grandchild.

So as I work from home, I have automatically become a full-time ‘other student’ in the virtual classroom.

I have gotten great joy from just listening to youthful voices as they express their curiosity, boldly ask their questions, laugh, and, on occasions, cry. Their innocence is most refreshing, and I reflect often on the occasion of our Lord’s interaction with children.

I am very appreciative of the work of the teachers, who now, in addition to their registered students, have a whole new cadre of ‘other students’ in the room, oftentimes twice in number.

This new phenomenon of virtual teaching and learning must be embraced as a blessing. There have been times in the not-too-distant past that parents, guardians and caregivers were chided for not turning up for parent-teacher meetings and consultations, or for not being active in the school life of their charges. Not so now. We are all virtually present and actively engaged.


Relearning and new learning are happening across generations. Parents and grandparents and, in some instances, great-grandparents have been exposed and are engaged as the ‘other students’ in the virtual classroom. Learning has no age limit, and all knowledge is for the ultimate good – for the learner and society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on many challenges. We have suffered many hurtful losses, but we have always been a resilient people and have overcome many hurdles in our past, by the grace and mercy of God. Let us commit to work together, to love and care for our children and the elderly, and to trust God.