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Daly Bread: Will T&T continue carrying forward its education deficiency?

The year 2020 ended with continuing limitations on the ability of the weary world to rejoice during the just concluding Christmas season, taken somewhat for granted in the lyrics of Oh Holy Night. Those limitations will be carried forward into what would have been the Carnival season 2021.

Of course, when compared with the devastating pandemic blows worldwide, it is almost crass to make any reference to Carnival. Nevertheless, in future columns, I may lay out again some ideas about the maintenance of our performing arts.

Photo: A midnight robber during carnival season in Trinidad and Tobago.
(Courtesy Traditional Mas)

Those arts remain the most fertile means of economic and community recovery outside the limping energy sector, whenever international travel resumes.

We are carrying forward serious tribulations. The pandemic has not mitigated either the practice of bitter partisan party politics or angry dismissiveness in response to legitimate inquiries about basic justice and fair play.

Sadly, those who wield power did not get the robust reminder of the fragility of mortal persons contained in the pandemic.

Our children have been sacrificed to the partisan zeal of boasting about the number of devices being given out when possession of the devices without connectivity is pointless. In reality, these boasts are a cruel hoax when 40 per cent or more of the nation’s children have no connectivity.

I dealt with this education death sentence in a recent column from the perspective of our digital poverty. Let us look now at other aspects of socio-economic reality, which inhibit online learning.

Image: The Covid-19 pandemic has forced schools to switch almost entirely to online learning.
(via University of Pittsburgh)

Modest dwellings and working parents can rarely provide sufficient spaces and supervision for online learning. Isn’t it pitiable that we have to spell this out for our leaders?

If more than one child in a household is to receive online learning, each child may require a separate room or space so as not to disturb the other. The natural tendency of children to be distracted easily requires in-person supervision.  

Who is to do that if the adults in a household have to be away from the home or are themselves engaged working online?

Networks, such as Parent Teacher Associations (PTA), and good neighbours are the mitigants of the current learning crisis. Those mitigants are mostly all we have. 

The government, unconcerned and self-praising, yammers on about its good management. It throws its blanket of personal animosity toward the official Opposition also over the critiques and suggestions of many other citizens in several spheres of activity.

Photo: Ministers of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly (left) and Lisa Morris-Julian visit students at the Gandhi Memorial Vedic School during the Covid-19 pandemic.
(via Ministry of Education)

I have seen interesting messages from those struggling in the real world to shore up a manifestly deficient delivery of education, while the device giving photo-ops are high profile in the political and corporate fantasy world.

For example from an urban, faith based school environment where networking and good neighbourly responses are strong, one well respected educator described the situation as follows: 

“Indeed connectivity is an issue we are all looking at. We have been fortunate to have members of the PTA and the church offer assistance.  

“For those who may not have internet at home, systems were put in place for them to visit a neighbour, relative or kind Samaritan to cover work assigned. This combined with close monitoring by class teachers allows for students to work asynchronously.”

Regarding the wider problems experienced in rural communities, in respect of one of which willing donors are available, the situation is described as ‘tricky’—because many of the students do not have access to devices or the internet. 

Photo: No Wifi…

Confirmation has to be sought from school officials ‘if plans are in place to ensure that those who receive devices are able to connect to cover the work assigned to them’.

For the sake of completeness, the Sloan Foundation describes asynchronous learning as: ‘a general term used to describe forms of education, instruction and learning that do not occur in the same place or at the same time.  It uses resources that facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place amongst a network of people’.

Can the developmental ministries of government tell us what, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, they might be doing to assist those networking to mitigate the grave, nationwide online learning deficiency? Do they even know or care about the extent of it?

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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