Education and COVID-19: The virtual elephant in the room

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Education and COVID-19: The virtual elephant in the room

DANIA BOGLE

Sunday, October 11, 2020

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I get palpitations at the thought of participating in another online meeting, which is the new norm of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is not the fact of it being online that is so hard to bear but the lack of balance the method represents. No one admits that sitting in front of a computer for minutes or hours on end is challenging at best and health-threatening at worst.

This brings me to the resumption of public schooling. Public school, as many private schools, began online lessons in September, already tipping the scale in favour of those children who are privileged to afford private education. Quality education is one of the top five United Nations Sustainable Development Goals needed to ensure peace and prosperity, therefore delivering quality education needs to be given serious consideration.

Much concern has been expressed about the fact that many Jamaican children do not have Internet access but not enough is said about the damage to physical and mental health that sitting in front of computer screens causes. Children, humans, are just not meant to sit for hours — and the younger the child, the worse it is.

I recently participated in a parent/teacher meeting in which those very concerns were expressed. It is ineffective for teachers to try to deliver lessons online in the same manner they would face to face. Secondly, online education does not take into account students who learn in a more tactile way. Personally, I don't learn well by just by being told how to do something. I understand much better if I am able to apply it practically during teaching, especially for a subject like mathematics. Unfortunately, the pace of online learning does not allow for such slow, close interactions.

Additionally, research shows sitting down contributes to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even early death. Several studies have shown that sitting down for long periods is bad for health, no matter how much a person exercises.

Online education also impacts negatively on children's mental health, compounding the stress already being experienced by having fewer social outlets due to COVID-19 restrictions on movements.

Education is a fundamental social determinant of health. A quality education can mean a good job that pays a higher wager, meaning less poverty, more food on the table, less hunger, and greater access to information on how to maintain good health and well-being. It behooves parents and educators at this time to pay greater attention to their wards and watch for any sign that a method being applied is ineffectual.

Dania Bogle, MSc, is a health professional. Please send comments to dmbogle@yahoo.com


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