Mon | May 17, 2021

Haile Selassie principal hopes tablets will boost attendance

Published:Friday | March 12, 2021 | 12:19 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Haile Selassie High School Principal Lorenzo Ellis (centre) sorts through some of the tablets, face masks, soap dispensers and hand sanitisers donated to the institution yesterday with past students Georgina Henry-Smith and Milton Morrison yesterday. The d
Haile Selassie High School Principal Lorenzo Ellis (centre) sorts through some of the tablets, face masks, soap dispensers and hand sanitisers donated to the institution yesterday with past students Georgina Henry-Smith and Milton Morrison yesterday. The donation was an initiative of local and overseas-based past students associations.

With roughly 70 per cent of Haile Selassie High School students failing to consistently engage in online classes, Principal Lorenzo Ellis yesterday expressed gratitude for a donation of 48 tablets to help engage more pupils.

The donation was made by past students of the institution based in Jamaica, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. They also handed over personal protection equipment, inclusive of masks and sanitisers.

Principal Ellis described it as a timely and well-needed intervention, saying that most of the 919 students on the school’s register have been at a severe disadvantage as a result of the digital divide as classes moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Based on our checks, those who are consistently involved in accessing the online platform that we offer from the learning-management system offered by the Ministry of Education is not exceeding 30 per cent. That is what we know because we have checked, and it fluctuates downwards sometimes, so there is a real problem,” the principal disclosed. “So we are not going to be idle with these gifts. In fact, we are just finalising the list of beneficiaries so we can start distributing them as early as tomorrow.”

Next week Wednesday, March 17, the Payne Avenue, Kingston 11-based school will reopen for face-to-face classes for Grade 11 students only. This cohort comprises students sitting the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) exams.

Ellis said that Grade 10 students had been involved in face-to-face classes earlier this term, but were sent home on the instructions of the Ministry of Education and have now rejoined grades seven to nine students on the virtual teaching and learning platform.

He expressed concern that, even with the donation, which will mainly benefit grades seven to nine, many students could still be at a disadvantage without consistent and reliable access to the Internet.

The school, which has been beset by fluctuations in Internet service, recently installed additional routers, which have resulted in improved access.

Meanwhile, past student and attorney-at-law Andrew Lowe explained that the donation was a result of the recognition by the various past students chapters that, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions have been forced to utilise other methods of learning and that online classes have now become the norm worldwide.

“With the challenges experienced by many of our students in the inner city, we empathise with the families who are unable to acquire the devices required for their children to access the various platforms to continue their learning,” he said.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com