Online learning has not helped most children

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Tamesia Taylor, left, buys a school uniform for her son at Nelson’s Bookstore, Scarborough, Tobago, last Wednesday. She was attended to by Sherice Antoine, right. Taylor’s son Kai Carith, a form two Bishop’s High School student returns to school on Monday. – David Reid

National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) first vice-president, Tobago region, Joseph Lindow does not believe online learning has benefitted the majority of students on the island.

He said it is for this reason that the association supports the return of face-to-face classes on Monday for students in forms one-three as well as standard five pupils preparing for the Secondary Entrance Assessment examination on March 31.

On January 24, the Ministry of Education issued a statement, saying that this cohort of students are to return to the physical classroom on February 7. But it said the students in forms one-three will attend classes on a rotation basis.

The THA Division of Education, Research and Technology said in a statement on Saturday that education stakeholders on the island, including TTUTA and the PTA, support the move.

The decision was taken at the end of a three-day consultation in January, hosted by education secretary Zorisha Hackett.

On Saturday, Lindow said the ministry’s decision to allow the students to resume physical classes was long overdue.

“We are in support of them going back to school. I think after two years of this back and forth, we are seeing that the virtual learning really not helping our students in the majority so that is the reason why we are supporting the return to school,” he said.

Lindow told Sunday Newsday although the absence of devices for students is no longer a major problems, internet connectivity continues to be a challenge for many students.

“The device story not so prevalent now but Tobago has a problem with internet connectivity and sometimes when you do have it, it fluctuates.”

He added many children also do not have people to supervise them during online classes.

Daynette Morrison of Argyle buys a pair of school sneakers at Payless, Gulf City Mall, Lowlands, Tobago, last Friday, for her daughter Empress Byro ‘s return to school on Monday. – David Reid

“You have to have a parent home or someone to actually supervise those students who are doing online because most of the time they do not have someone to supervise. I know of cases where teachers are talking and children are wandering around.

“Parents have said that they need to be at home for the children to have focus. Students have lost a lot of learning time and the best option is for them to go back physically.”

Nevertheless, Lindow said some parents are still sceptical about sending their children back to school, given the island’s challenges with controlling the spread of covid19.

He added some parents have also questioned the health measures that have been implemented by the division to ensure the safety of their children.

“Some parents are still hesitant to send their children out to school. They not so optimistic. But we are in support of students going back to school.”

Lindow said apart from requesting that more safety officers be placed in schools, the PTA had also asked for retired teachers to be hired to assist in ensuring that students were physically distanced.

He said the ministry rejected the latter, saying funds were not available.

“So, basically, we just have to wait until Monday to see how many parents will actually send their children out.”

Meanwhile, checks by Sunday Newsday revealed that parents are purchasing books, uniforms and other school supplies for their children, many of whom are physically entering their form one classrooms for the first time.

One parent said, “My daughter is happy to return to school because the online classes have been a bit of a strain on her. I believe she did the best she could while she was at home but it is time for them to go back out face to face. That kind of interaction with their teachers and other students is important.”

The woman was purchasing books at Nelson’s Bookstore, Breeze Hall Mall, Scarborough, which was filled with last-minute shoppers on Saturday.

“People are coming to buy books and uniforms. The store has just been busy,” one attendant said.

Educator’s Bookstore, Robinson Street, Scarborough, also reported a steady flow of shoppers.

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