The Story within the Story…
By Leonard Gildarie
I left home earlier this week for work and got caught in traffic at Diamond. It took one hour from the Diamond access road to the DDL turn. There it was an unbelievable sight.
A truck laden with lumber was sprawled obscenely across the western carriageway opposite the DSL supermarket. Lumber was strewn across the two lanes. Another part of the truck was across the median effectively also blocking one of the lanes of the eastern carriageway. Three of four lanes blocked.
For several hours, traffic crawled on one lane as traffic police battled to control the flow.
It appeared the truck was overladen. For the last few days, the traffic was beyond believable on the East Bank of Demerara. The West Bank traffic also suffered.
The reality is that there are more vehicles taking the road after the new government took office. Everything was at a standstill during that five months of stalemate for elections.
The traffic situation would signal a growing confidence in the economy and of course, a clear desperation by our people to get back to work after imprisoned by the pandemic measures since March.
The authorities would do well to pay attention to the traffic situation especially on the East Bank and West Bank of Demerara. Valuable man hours were lost in the congestion. We are not even talking about gas and the wear and tear on vehicles.
There are some priorities for this government. A new bridge across the Demerara River would be the foremost. That alternative road bypass linking the East Bank and East Coast of Demerara would be high on the agenda also.
It is unthinkable that in this day and age, God forbids, that a protest could shut down the East and West Bank. It could derail traffic to the airport, and ambulances and fire trucks which are on emergencies.
We can go on and on, but you catch the drift.
There is another major development which is affecting all of us. Education.
More than a week ago, public school restarted. We won’t say that the doors of the schools have been re-opened.
Rather, it started with online classes via Zoom, a video-conferencing app.
It is a lovely app that allows person to interact on video even if one is in the Alaska and the other in Guyana.
There is a major problem which is recognized by the Ministry of Education. Not every family has access to internet. In some areas, the use of data internet is not enough or too expensive.
About a third of the students on the coast, it was estimated by some teachers and other educators, are not able to participate on the Zoom classes.
The ministry has unrolled a hybrid system of schooling. It involves online, printed lessons, and classes via television (The Learning Channel) and radio. There are also reportedly materials in the daily newspapers.
There are major problems.
We should never be in this position. Our failure to ensure that a significant portion of our country is adequately served with proper service has been exposed.
We cannot continue with one telephone company which has taken out shamefully its profits without ensuring that its mandate to the people has been fulfilled.
Because of the country’s terrain it will be impossible to have coverage all over.
We have failed miserably.
The second point that must be made is that the ministry and government have both recognized that it is impossible to have schools remain closed.
However, how does one re-open schools and not have students mingle? Children love to touch and sit close.
On the flip side, to not have a hands-on approach by teachers will be a challenge. The classroom and schools are there and it lends to the atmosphere of learning.
It is difficult for teachers to pay attention in a Zoom setting to 20 faces and guess what mischief the students may be up to. Teachers will be out of their depth.
A senior education official told me she caught her child playing dolly house during a class.
There are very little options available to the ministry and the technical experts who have been battling to come up with initiatives.
Guyana, like the rest of the world, has entered uncharted waters.
The sad reality is that many students will slip through the cracks. The ministry will take time, or need time, to play catch up.
The harsh reality, based on what I learnt, is that many families do not have computers or laptops or even a tablet. Even if there is one, there is not enough.
What happens if there are several children in the home who need to take classes at the same time?
It is a pressing issue.
The reality is that COVID-19 will be with us for a while. The reality is that our way of life will probably not be the same for a number of years to come.
We can’t go to the malls or sea wall or creeks as we like. Parties and bars will never be the same.
Working from home or Zoom meetings will become a way of life.
An entire middle management of supervisors and foremen will likely be wipeout, affecting our organizational structures.
Do we adapt? It has been decision time for several months now…months we wasted fighting among ourselves.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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