'I cannot afford a tablet'

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'I cannot afford a tablet'

Parent uncertain ahead of start of online classes next week

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Staff reporter
kaseyw@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 01, 2020

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CHRISTIANA, Manchester — Marcia Denton is uncertain how her son will access classes when schools resume virtually next week.

She is one of scores of parents who is in the dark as to how her child will function due to lack of Internet access and a suitable device to engage in online learning.

“I am feeling bad because I cannot afford a tablet,” she told the Jamaica Observer as she waited in line to complete her son's registration at Holmwood Technical High School in Christiana, northern Manchester, on Tuesday.

“I don't have any [smart]phone...I don't have anything to put him online,” she said in reference to her 16-year-old son.

Denton explained that not having a suitable device has prevented her son from engaging in schoolwork since the onset of the novel coronavirus in March, which forced the closure of schools and led to students being told to participate in online learning.

“He didn't attend any classes [online] at all,” she said, adding that her son in now entering grade 10.

A senior school official, who spoke to the Observer on condition of anonymity, said teachers are being trained to use an online learning platform and, in cases like Denton's, students will be able to pick up and drop off printed material at strategic points in Craighead, Christiana, and Mandeville.

Efforts to contact Holmwood Technical's Principal Hidran McKulsky were unsuccessful.

At the Christiana High School, Principal Leecent Wallace said the institution is getting ready for online classes next week.

“Currently, we are ensuring that our staff members are properly trained on the new learning management system that we have in place, to ensure that they are able to meet the demands of the students. We currently have about 1,500 students on roll,” he said.

He said about 40 per cent of students are without Internet access but that measures are being implemented to accommodate them.

“We are ensuring that printed material is available for them and so the parents, or the students themselves, will be able to come into school, pick up the material, and get that to us,” Wallace said.

Education Minister Fayval Williams disclosed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday that students and teachers will not need to have a data plan to access the ministry's online learning management system. She also said that, effective October 2, the ministry will distribute 40,000 tablets to students on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education.


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