Schooling amidst a pandemic…
By Sueann Wickham
Kaieteur News – Schools have resumed for learning both virtually and face-to-face after a short period of closure for the Christmas holidays. With preparations already underway for the Easter Term and other upcoming examinations, students and teachers have been putting their best foot forward to ensure there is efficient learning despite the many limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Classes resumed for all students in the country on January 4 last. Students who were engaged in face-to-face classes returned to that method of learning and those who were engaged in virtual learning stuck to that method as well.
This reporter solicited comments from a few students, as well as some parents and teachers, about the experiences they have gained since the onset of the pandemic.
Without a doubt, virtual learning proved to be a challenge for many students across the country during the past few months. The virtual classroom concept was largely embraced by educational institutions because of the contagious nature of the virus which was first discovered in Guyana in March of last year.
Moreover, teachers utilised ZOOM and Google classrooms to administer classes and even though it was safer than face-to-face learning, it was still difficult for some.
A number of students returning to another term of virtual learning revealed that it is still difficult months after participating in that method of learning.
Syesha, a Grade 7 student at the Cummings Lodge Secondary School, said that virtual learning has br
ought less eagerness as it relates to the teaching/learning process. She said that transitioning from primary school to secondary school was already a tough task and virtual learning made it harder.
The student also expressed that it is often difficult for teachers to interact with students like her because they are fresh into the secondary school system and introducing new topics virtually is difficult on both ends. Adding to that, she shared that leaving the primary level and entering the secondary system was supposed to be an exciting experience and she had always looked forward to meeting her new friends on the first day. But that has been delayed due to COVID-19.
Other students shared that internet access is a major factor in their learning, but it is not something that everyone can afford.
A student of the Christ Church Secondary School, who gave her name as Sarah, stated that virtual learning placed somewhat of a burden on her parents due to them having to find internet. “It was not only internet access they had to find but stable internet. That was an extra cost in their pockets in the pandemic, which is already hard… I had to go the majority of months without internet and I used family members’ Wi-Fi but it was not good enough. So for this term, we had to make the sacrifice,” she related.
She further stressed that she misses face-to-face class sessions and was hoping her level could return to physical classrooms for this term but unfortunately that did not occur.
She revealed that while most of her teachers put their best foot forward to ensure students learn virtually, quite a few are still out of touch and are struggling with technology themselves.
Since November 9 last year, students of grades 10, 11 and 12 returned for face-to-face classes in light of the upcoming Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
The schools reopened under strict COVID-19 protocols with mixed reactions.
When the doors of schools reopened after the Christmas holidays, these students returned to school again and a few were happy to share their experiences.
Christina, a Grade 11 student at the North Georgetown Secondary School, related that the face-to-face classes made things a lot easier for her as a CSEC student. According to the student, it is still challenging due to practice social distancing protocols for classrooms, but they still manage to get things done. She recalled her experience with virtual learning stating that she and her classmates were often inconvenienced.
“Learning virtually was somewhat challenging, due to school being closed because of the pandemic. It was difficult to learn when doing online classes due to the inconvenience of not being able to have face-to-face contact with the teacher like when in the classroom. There were many challenges when trying to complete our School Based Assessments with the other students because sometimes it would be difficult to get to contact them. Learning is way easier when we are taught face-to-face,” she said.
In the hinterland regions, there was a low turnout for face-to-face classes, according to Deputy Chief Education Officer (DCEO) for Amerindian and Hinterland Education Development, Marti DeSouza.
He related that the hinterland saw a ‘student turn-out’ of just below 50 percent. Face-to-face interaction, he added, has been going smoothly and there were plans afoot to link all the secondary schools virtually. This, he said, would work especially well for the dormitory students who have access to the school’s Wi-Fi.
The DCEO further stated that he is currently in Region One (Barima-Waini) assessing the state of the computer labs to ensure that they are fully functional. It was expected that a test run of the virtual learning process would be conducted and if it proves successful, it would be extended to all hinterland schools.
“Grades 10 and 11 students reside in the dorm, but due to the learning loss experienced, we are attempting to make up through virtual means. The students who have not returned will continue to be engaged through the Ministry of Education’s worksheets,” DeSouza disclosed.
Teachers also reported low turn-outs at schools in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica). A teacher at the East Ruimveldt Secondary School revealed that only 50 percent of the school’s grades 10 and 11 students showed up for the Easter Term.
Nevertheless, word out of the Education Ministry is that officials are optimistic about the schools’ reopening and the remainder of the term.
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