Even before the official reopening of Jamaican schools on October 5, educators, parents and students had expressed their concerns regarding the lack of technological devices needed to access online learning. And now, over a week since teaching has began, the statistics trickling have validated those concerns.
According to the President of the Jamaica Teacher’s Association (JTA) Jasford Gabriel, only 36% of students have been accessing classes online.
These statistics are based on a sampling of 2,000 teachers across the island. The JTA president says the greatest challenge is a lack of or poor internet connection.
“We would have sampled roughly 2,000 of our teachers across the country and only 3% of them said that they are accounting for all of their students online. Some 33% are saying most, so we are in the region of 36% of our students being connected,” Gabriel said on a local news program.
Even with hundreds of thousands of students having no devices to access online learning, many of the students that do are forced to deal with unreliable internet access by the two internet providers on the island and additional electricity problems.
He said that while connectivity is the major issue plaguing the reopening of schools, another major issue is that of parents being unable to adequately supervise the teaching-learning experience online.
“Parents are not trained to properly supervise the students online and so they have cases of indiscipline, students not participating, not properly attired and students unable to manipulate the devices,” he explained.
In the meantime, Jamaica’s minister of education Fayval Williams said that while poor internet connectivity has negatively impacted the virtual classroom, there are other approaches being used.
“I know most people are focused on the online approach but there are lessons being broadcasted on television, aired on radio and additionally parents and principals are picking up books and other materials.”
As the second wave of COVID-19 continues to ravage the island, Williams said that the ministry continues to consult with stakeholders to examine if and when students can return to face-to-face instruction.