Teachers, students  facing similar problems with e-learning platform
Intermediate High School (IHS) teacher Kimberley Young-Compton teaching her students in an online session last Wednesday.
May 8, 2020

Teachers, students facing similar problems with e-learning platform

By Lyf Compton

Slow Internet connections, no Internet connection, no devices and at times an inadequate device are just some of the challenges being faced by teachers and students in relation to online teaching and learning.

“One child we can’t find at all because of her economic circumstances…some log on in the beginning and 10 minutes in, they’re gone because they’re using data and it’s expensive, they can’t afford,” a teacher at an all-girl secondary school told SEARCHLIGHT on Thursday on the condition that we do not use her name.

COVID-19 has forced the prolonged closure of schools worldwide, forcing teachers and students in the direction of e-learning, mostly unchartered waters here in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and several other Caribbean countries.

“It (online courses) is not a challenge for me, but for some of them…one of the biggest challenges is a lot of them are using phones and some of them don’t have Wi-Fi, so the cost of the data is high to keep up with teaching for the whole day,” the teacher added.

She said that when she started online classes, she took attendance at the beginning, but she now has to take it at the end as students disappear during the course of the classes, not because they are delinquent, but because they can’t afford the data required to stay online.

She said these students often liaise with their classmates and email the work or send it through WhatsApp when the Zoom platform is suspended because they have run out of data.

“I would get messages from a student saying such and such say to check your email because they sent the work…it’s not a case where they do not want to be there, it’s just that they can’t,” the educator stated.

“They come to class but sometimes you can tell it’s not wifi they have and then they gone,” she explained.

She noted also that the process has not always been smooth for her as she has had sleepless nights training herself to use the platform while at this point it is still a learning process although the basics have been mastered.

“The lack of training is also a big issue,” she said while noting that some teachers are still struggling. She is also encouraging teachers to take breaks as sitting in front a laptop without short breaks can be problematic for one’s health.

Kimberley Young-Compton of the Intermediate High School (IHS) said on Wednesday that her biggest issues are inadequate Internet connectivity and poor attendance (especially by the form five students).

She noted also that some students have noisy backgrounds that distract them from the class.

“But they are doing the work. Those who come are doing the work but there is less attendance from the form fives because I guess they feel the syllabus is finished and they should have been doing exams,” said Young-Compton.

She added also that some children do not seem to have a device or Internet connectivity and that is also an issue.

A teacher from another secondary school who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said that not all teachers are equipped or tech savvy, so that is a problem.

He said although the online platforms are not the same as teaching using a chalk board, most teachers at the all-boy institution where he works have got with the program.

Internet instability is also an issue according to the source who said that teachers and students have been complaining about the Internet “cutting out”.

He added also that they have been able to capture about 90 per cent of the students.

Some students, he said, are not taking the set-up seriously as they are at home and not in a classroom.

“Because they’re at home they feel they can log in at any time even though we have a timetable and a structure. They do not always pay attention to the structure,” the teacher noted.

He also pointed to the lack of involvement by some parents.

“Some parents are overly involved, and some pay no mind at all. We have had parents call and complain that teachers not logging in, while some parents are nowhere to be found,” said the educator.

Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves said last week that the government is trying to fix the device and Internet issues as data is showing that not all students are properly equipped.

Therefore, digital tablets will be provided to all 30,000 students, but beginning with a smaller order of 3000 for senior secondary school and grade six students.

The government will also be providing wifi in some cases as about only one quarter of households in the nation have wireless Internet capabilities.