Trinidad and Tobago are not the only Caribbean countries facing resource-related problems stemming from attempts to throw virtual training into the mix to find viable alternatives to the conventional education system suffers from coronavirus, but was probably the first country in the region to fix its problems ‘at the door.’
On Tuesday, the Trinidad Guardian ventured an article in which he referred to the challenge of affordability associated with parents in impoverished communities trying to get their children to access the virtual option of the classroom routine that he had it must be put aside in the wake of the pandemic.
It seems that the inhabitants of the working-class Chatham Village in the island-ish republic, where unemployment is allegedly high, are getting ‘the devil’s own job’ to finance the technology-related list, especially no desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones are necessary for participating in virtual classes.
But those are not the only challenges. Even if such an inventory can be acquired, by some quirk of faith, the chronic problems such as unreliable electricity (and water supply) and internet access are being suffered by Chatham Village residents who block the way to virtual learning.
The Guardian article, written by Akash Samaroo, highlights the case of Chatham Village resident Nandraka Henry, whose children, it seems, are trying to keep up with the learning challenge but have become used to it experience “lost week of school assignments.” Henry’s particular problem repeats in that the affordability challenges associated with virtual learning compel her to pursue the option of traveling to her children’s school to access “the printed paper assignments offered to students who do not have access online. ” At one time or another, it is a matter of bus fares to get to school and back or alternatively, the logistics of receiving work online from the only phone that the home shares and which only does and does receiving calls. In other homes children have to take turns using phones to access assignments.
Samaroo, whose article embraced conversations with several other Chatham Village residents, says the problems are exactly the same.
Residents of Chatham Village will undoubtedly take comfort in the fact that they are not the only poor Caribbean community suffering this problem. In Guyana, attempts to offer a limited virtual teaching / learning system in the absence of a conventional classroom have been prompted by identical problems … and more. Tools that are key to creating a two-way communication system to implement the virtual curriculum are not readily available, not only because of affordability but because, for example, the demand for laptops worldwide has made one unavailable easily in stores at this time. Beyond that the absence of a communications infrastructure has literally cut large parts of the country from access to virtual education.
“You can say it’s the best there is, but I’m not sure it works,” Demerara East Coast teacher told the Stabroek Business. “Teachers were not trained for this. Some of us have learned to use computers on our own but there is a specific psychology involved in teaching virtual classes that is completely different from the seating-on-benches-teacher-in-charge approach. Discipline and key attention are paramount
elements of the teaching / learning process. Interaction is also important. If you do not have those you are at a huge disadvantage. “
A serving high school teacher with IT training outside the area of his teaching experience agrees. “If the assumption was that we could move from conventional education to a virtual approach then something must be wrong with us all. It’s not just about phones, laptops and internet access. The methods involved in virtual teaching, especially how you encourage, receive and manage feedback are critical. It is important to note that despite the risks of catching a coronavirus, a large number of parents have sent their children back to the classroom. My feedback tells me that they are much more comfortable with the discipline culture associated with the classroom. ”
Earlier this week the Deputy Headteacher of a Georgetown secondary school told the Stabroek Business that many teachers are now working in the actual teaching / learning system as well as the virtual one. “Now that schools have a limited opening they teach their conventional classes and after that they work with small groups in virtual classrooms. I am not sure to what extent it is happening, but I know that it does. Sometimes parents believe in giving their children what we call ‘every little bit extra.’ Who knows, even beyond COVID-19, some small group virtual learning may be here to stay. There is certainly potential that can be developed and turned into a profitable business down the road. “