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On March 10, Jamaica was turned upside down with the introduction of Covid-19 into the Jamaican ecosystem. Families, lives and businesses were upended and forced to conform to a new way of life that
was characterized by the use of more technology than the average person in the country was used to.

One area that was not spared from this transitional movement, was education. Administrators, teachers, parents and students were all forced into a new way of learning electronically in a short period of time. Many of us are still learning the ropes of this new normal and in WhatsApp groups and Zoom calls across the country, all stakeholders are sharing their frustration with various aspects of this new
regime.

On May 4 th at a press conference held by the government, the Minister of Education – Karl Samuda, announced that over 31,000 students from 238 schools had no access to internet to participate in online
learning. A summary of some of the statistics presented are as follows: 

It is further estimated that in excess of 200,000 students are without a device to continue learning in a digital environment. In discussion with parents and teachers across Jamaica on this issue, the problems faced include:

  • Multiple children trying to access limited devices
  • Slow or no internet access
  • Many have no prior experience using online learning tools
  • Children in younger age groups don’t have the ability to manipulate tools themselves, requiring parents to be hand holding them through the process. The parents themselves may be working so the child either is left to fend for themselves or the parent is forced to multitask
  • Online learning misses out on some of the social skills developed by school. Eg:
    • Zoom is not conducive to online learning for younger age groups who cannot manipulate the devices.
    • There are multiple devices and locations that students are being asked to retrieve work like WhatsApp, Google classroom, Youtube, Zoom and email. The parents and children have to navigate too many places for the online experience.
    • Parents are generally frustrated with the chaos and confusion emanating from the lack of control teachers have in the online environment. The teachers themselves cannot train the students when they don’t understand what to do in this new paradigm.

Notwithstanding the problems with access to a device and the internet, there are a few success stories with students and teachers engaged in online learning. Like with any new experience, practice makes perfect. 

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