AS the Education Ministry moves into a phased, virtual reopening of schools between September 7 and 14, parents have mixed views on the plan.
Newsday spoke to the parents of pre-school, primary and secondary-school students for their feedback.
A father of two – an eight-year-old boy in standard three, and a two-year-old girl – said the reopening of schools is important, and the sooner this is done, the better.
“My kids are already acclimatised to the use of mobile devices for Zoom meetings, so online classes would be no hassle for them. My wife and I are also committed to helping them along the process. We have already transformed a section of the living room into a classroom."
But he added that he knows many families may not have computers or internet access.
The ministry last week called on corporate TT to assist by providing such services for students, saying, “Access to these conveniences is crucial in this time of pandemic if we want to educate our younger generation for them to make a positive impact on our future. We are not sure how long this would last so the sooner we can get our kids learning, the better. The online environment is the perfect and appropriate method right now.”
And if corporate TT accepts the government’s call, the father said, “Internet access should be enough to get online and download in a timely matter or view lessons without lagging. The devices should be sufficient enough to handle internet speed and provide the necessary applications/software to access the lessons. Government should also provide the appropriate platforms for learning and ensure that teachers are educated to properly and efficiently use said facilities.”
But the mother of three boys, eight, 12 and 13, said while the government’s idea is not a bad one, she wishes it would refrain from solely “people-pleasing” and instead, “provide thorough plans and offer them to the public.
“Consideration must be given to the disenfranchised citizens, because they'd be left out the most. They've changed plans so often due to public outrage, so nothing seems steady. I appreciate that they aim to please but they must have a thoroughly structured plan and give us citizens great options. Things done hastily will cause disaster in the long run and the future – our children – will suffer the most.”
The father of one told Newsday he supports the reopening because had school reopened physically, he would not have sent his seven-year-old daughter “…for the fear of interactions with other children and not knowing what safety protocols the other families would have put in place."
On corporate TT assisting, he said while some people are truly in need of the help, he hopes it is not abused.
“Unfortunately, Trinidad has this 'gimme, gimme' mentality.
“It is your child. Go do what you have to do to make a better life for your child.
"There are some that are really underprivileged, but the majority of us have money to go and lime, and that same money can be spent on our kids.”
The mother of one shared his sentiments, saying with or without assistance, her child is her responsibility at the end of the day. She said the virtual reopening will be challenging, since she works and attends school, but it is currently the best decision because of the upsurge in covid19 cases.
“As a working parent it would be extremely difficult for me to ensure my child logs on virtually to attend his morning classes as well as put in the work that he's capable of, due to me being at work and his father being at work when his school classes are to be in session.
"Then when I'm finally at home, I have my own virtual classes to attend or coursework to complete,” she said.
“My child's education is my responsibility, virus or no virus. Virus or no virus, assistance or no assistance, I have to ensure his access to an education. I have to ensure that his work standard doesn't drop.”
The father of three boys – standard four, one and first-year students – said schools definitely needed to reopen, so he is grateful for the decision.
His only challenge?
“I have three boys and one laptop, so they will have to take turns.
“It is a great move that can work, but a lot of support from teachers (is) needed, and committed parents.”
One father said he would have preferred the reopening in January, but a lot of good has come out of the pandemic.
“I love the fact that this term there will be no end-of-term tests.
"Children with disabilities are being considered even more now, too.
"It forces parents to be more involved in their kids' schooling. The whole system needed revamping.”
He only hopes the school hours don’t remain the same, since that would be “too much screen time for any one child.”
Two other parents believe the government is doing the best it possibly can, adding that employers will need to be more understanding of employees with children.
The mother of two said she had to keep her six-year-old fully distracted and otherwise engaged when her 13-year-old son was using the computer for a class. She wanted to ensure he had an environment quiet enough to focus.
“I’m a home-maker, so I can provide undivided attention. But I could only imagine people who have more than two kids.
Even for her, “I usually had my space and 'me time' after dropping them off, but now, ‘me time’ isn’t a thing.”
And the father of one said initially he was a bit concerned and felt the reopening was “a bit rushed.
"But after a little bit of reflection, it is the best way, because it doesn’t seem like we are going back to the traditional methods of learning anytime soon."