Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Hanover stakeholders worried about online schooling

Published:Saturday | October 17, 2020 | 12:06 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer
Dr David Stair.
Dr David Stair.

Western Bureau:

With some reports suggesting that as many as 50 per cent of the students in Hanover have not been benefiting from the teaching-learning process since the start of the new school year, several prominent stakeholders in the parish, including Custos Dr David Stair, are worried about the situation.

“In my opinion, I think we (in Hanover) are in serious trouble. As you should know, the majority of Hanover is rural, and low-income families live in these places,” Stair said in an interview with The Gleaner, noting that the lack of financial resources, the lack of connectivity, and a poor telecommunication infrastructure were proving to be a major setback to education in the parish.

“Recognising all of these factors, I am sure the authorities must be aware that we should have taken the rest of 2020 to put all the infrastructure in place, develop all the teaching programmes, teach the teachers how to embrace the new technology, and develop plans that can reach everyone and are also able to make sure that the children are equipped to receive the information because without adequate devices, adequate connectivity, the resources to access the information, we are going to be in trouble,” added Stair.

DISMAL AND CHAOTIC

In describing the current situation as dismal and chaotic, Stair said more planning was needed to get the new school year off to a proper start.

“Planners need to get out in the real world. They need to get out there on the ground and see how things actually operate and what are the realities of life in Jamaica, especially in the rural communities. They need to recognise that city living and rural living are quite different,” said Stair.

Gare Whittaker, president of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce, said that he, too, is concerned about the current state of affairs, especially as it relates to tablets and Internet service.

“While we understand the reason to have stay-at-home learning now, it is also important to try to come up with a strategy in which we are going to one, make sure that Internet service is available and two, ensure the kids who do not have tablets, what is the plan in order for them to get it?”

Recognising the challenge facing both the Ministry of Education and parents, Whittaker said that plans are afoot in his organisation to assist with the provision of tablets for some needy students.

Interestingly, one principal, who asked not to be identified, said she shares the view that fewer than 50 per cent of the students in the parish have Internet access.

“A lot of the children do not have phones. It is the parents who have the phones, and many times, the parents go to work with their phones. The others are getting engaged through a medium which is not very competent,” the educator said. “We are going to have a serious academic challenge with this generation. The students definitely have already fallen behind, and they will continue to fall behind, so many of them are not getting an opportunity to talk to their teachers and ask them questions. All of this is going to cause a backward trend in education in Hanover.”

The principal, nonetheless, stated that with the level of the community spread of the coronavirus across the nation, she would not support any face-to-face classes at this time.

“What I think should happen is that the Government must negotiate with the technology companies to provide Internet service access for the neediest students,” the principal said. “Also, the Ministry of Education must step up its distribution of tablets to needy students.”